Surgical Orthodontics

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. Moving the jaws also moves the teeth, so braces are always performed in conjunction with jaw correction. This helps make sure teeth are in their proper positions after surgery.

Who needs surgical orthodontics?

Your orthodontist will consider surgical orthodontic treatment for patients with improper bites (underbite, overbite, openbite) and those with facial esthetic concerns. Jaw growth is usually completed by age 16 for girls and 20 for boys. Growth must be nearly completed before jaw surgery can be performed; however the pre-surgical tooth movements can begin one to two years prior to these ages. Jaw surgery may be more likely for adult orthodontic patients with severe, irregular bites, because their jaws are no longer growing.

How does it work?

During pre-surgical 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 usually performed in the hospital by an oral surgeon. In lower jaw surgery, the tooth-bearing portion of the jaw is moved forward or backward, as needed. In upper jaw surgery, the jaw can be repositioned forward or backward, or the jaw can be raised or lowered. Additional procedures like chin augmentation and rhinoplasty may be paired with the main procedure and can be performed at the same time by the same surgeon.

When you have completed surgery, you should be able to return to school or work within about 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.

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