Correct jaw function may not be high on the list of well-known health indicators, but it’s a necessary part of activities as vital as chewing and speaking. For some people, though, trauma or unfavorable growth has led to the jaws fitting together incorrectly or to the teeth fitting the jaws poorly. While many of these situations can be corrected with orthodontic work to straighten the teeth and subtly adjust the jaw, some situations have more extreme problems with jaw alignment. In these situations, orthognathic surgery, or jaw surgery, can reposition the misaligned jaw to improve both the function of the jaws and teeth and the appearance of the face as a whole.
Symptoms of Jaw Problems
Patients may wish to consider jaw surgery if they suffer from a protruding or retracted jaw, an open bite in which the teeth fail to meet, chronic jaw pain, trouble with breathing or speech, or difficulty in chewing or swallowing. Depending on the patient, these problems may have existed at birth or been acquired over the course of time as the result of trauma, heredity, or environment. To confirm the need for treatment, Dr. Arroyo will perform a thorough examination that includes X-rays. During this consultation process, we encourage our patients to ask whatever questions you may have about the potential treatment so that you can make an informed decision about the options presented to you.
Candidates for Jaw Surgery
Most candidates for jaw surgery are people whose jaws are positioned improperly due to incorrect growth. Since the jaw grows gradually, the lower and upper jaws can occasionally develop at different rates, leading to an improper bite that leaves the patient unable to chew correctly, speak clearly, or maintain ideal oral health. In some cases, it can also adversely affect the appearance. In addition, people who have suffered jaw injuries or congenital defects can also be good candidates for jaw surgery.
In most cases, jaw surgery is only appropriate for cases where the jaw itself is positioned incorrectly, since tooth problems can normally be corrected with orthodontics. A consultation with Dr. Arroyo, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Miami, can help to determine whether jaw surgery would be an appropriate option in your situation. If a professional evaluation determines that you are a good candidate for orthognathic surgery, Dr. Arroyo will form a treatment plan that includes your dentist and orthodontist to achieve a new tooth and jaw position that will provide you not only with good function but also greater health and an improved appearance.
Types of Jaw Surgery
Using comprehensive x-rays of your face as well as modern computer modeling, Dr. Arroyo will show you how he plans to approach your surgery. You’ll be able to see how the procedure will improve your bite and give you a basic idea of how you might look after recovery. During this session, you’ll learn which of the three types of orthognathic surgery will be used in your situation.
To correct an open bite in which the front teeth do not meet, a crossbite in which one or more of the upper teeth falls inside the lower teeth, or a severely receded upper jaw, Dr. Arroyo may select a maxillary osteotomy. During this type of reconstructive jaw surgery, the upper teeth and jaw are moved forward by cutting the bone that lies above your teeth. Once the upper jaw fits with the lower teeth, Dr. Arroyo will place small plates and screws to hold it in the correct position.
For a receded lower jaw, a mandibular osteotomy can be used. In this case, Dr. Arroyo will make incisions lengthwise on the jaw bone and behind the molars to allow him to slide the jawbone into the correct position. As in the maxillary osteotomy, tiny plates and screws will be used to hold it in place as it heals.
Finally, a jaw that is severely receded can be corrected by a genioplasty. During this type of surgery, the chin bone itself will be cut and then secured in a new position. Typically, Dr. Arroyo is able to alter the jaw and restructure the chin in the same procedure if necessary, but this will depend on your individual case.
Jaw Surgery FAQs
Most patients are pleased to report that the pain following surgery is fairly moderate and easily controlled with your prescribed medications. You should, however, expect some visible swelling as well as nasal congestion and some difficulty in chewing for the first 5-7 days. Although you’ll need to eat soft foods like scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes for a few weeks, most patients are able to return to other normal activities like work or school within 7-10 days.
While wiring the jaw shut during the healing process was a standard and infamous part of jaw surgery decades ago, modern techniques make that unnecessary in nearly all cases. You will be able to speak and yawn normally during the healing process, although you will likely need to stick to a soft food diet for several weeks.
Once the healing from your jaw surgery is complete, you can expect greater ease in chewing, breathing, and speaking, as well as an improvement in the appearance and balance of your face and smile.
Certainly. While jaw surgery is primarily performed to improve function, many cases of incorrect jaw alignment can leave the patient self-conscious and uncomfortable with their appearance. In these cases, correcting the bite can produce a great improvement in quality of life.
In most cases, orthodontics are an integral part of the treatment process. Orthodontic treatment such as braces normally takes place for several months before surgery can be scheduled, and there may be a post-surgical orthodontic treatment as well.