What is surgical orthodontics?
Just as orthodontics repositions teeth, surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) corrects jaw irregularities to improve the patient's ability to chew, speak, and breathe and for improved facial appearances. In other words, surgical orthodontics straightens your jaw(s). Moving the jaws also moves the teeth, so braces are always performed in conjunction with jaw correction to achieve an optimal result.
Who needs surgical orthodontics?
Your orthodontist will consider surgical orthodontic treatment for non-growing adult patients with improper bites and those with facial esthetic concerns. Jaw growth is usually completed by age 16 for girls and 18 for boys, however the pre-surgical tooth movements can begin one to two years prior to these ages.
How does it work?
During your orthodontic treatment, you wear braces and will visit your orthodontist for scheduled adjustments to your braces. As your teeth move with the braces, you may think that your bite is getting worse rather than better. However, when your jaws are placed into proper alignment during orthognathic surgery, the teeth will then fit into their proper positions.
Surgery is performed in the hospital with an oral surgeon, and usually at least a one-night stay in the hospital is required. For lower jaw surgery, the jawbone behind the teeth is separated and the tooth-bearing portion is moved forward or backward, as needed. In upper jaw surgery, the jaw can be repositioned forward or backward, and the jaw height adjusted vertically. Certain movements may require the addition or removal of bone to achieve the proper alignment and stability. Other facial bones that contribute to alignment may also be repositioned or augmented.
When you have completed surgery, you should be able to return to school or work within two weeks. After the necessary healing time (about 4-8 weeks), your orthodontist "fine-tunes" your bite. In most cases, braces are removed within 6 to 12 months following surgery. After your braces are removed, you will wear a retainer to maintain your beautiful new smile.