Jaw Surgery

Jaw surgery at Des Moines Oral Surgeons PC corrects a bad bite by repositioning jaw bones and teeth. This can enhance facial appearance as well. Also known as orthognathic surgery or surgical orthodontics, corrective jaw surgery becomes necessary when jaw problems can’t be treated by orthodontics (teeth straightening) alone. Surgery is usually performed when patients’ jaws are fully developed, in the teens or early 20s.

Bite Problems Jaw Surgery Can Resolve

Jawbone issues can result in an uneven bite (malocclusion), when the upper and lower teeth don’t come together properly. The problem is most often congenital – passed down through families. It can also be caused by a blow to the face.

Orthognathic surgery resolves bite irregularities such as:

  • Crossbite. One or more lower front teeth protrude in front of the upper teeth when you close your mouth.
  • Overbite. Upper front teeth overlap lower teeth. • Underbite. All the lower teeth project beyond the upper teeth.
  • Open bite. Upper and lower teeth don’t meet.

The Jaw Surgery Process

Jaw surgery in combination with orthodontic treatment is a collaborative process, and our Des Moines oral surgeons will work with your orthodontist or general dentist to determine your treatment plan.

The entire process of aligning the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) can take two to three years. It involves:

  • Orthodontic treatment.
  • The orthognathic surgery itself.
  • Continued orthodontic treatment after recovery from surgery.

Orthodontic treatment before jaw straightening begins to reposition teeth using braces. About two-thirds of the way into the orthodontic process you’ll will be ready for jaw surgery. After surgery, patients typically continue with orthodontic treatment for six to nine months. When the braces are removed, you’ll get a retainer to stop your teeth shifting back out of position.

Preparing for Jaw Surgery

Orthodontists often fit braces months before jaw surgery to help align teeth in preparation for the procedure. You’ll likely have a few appointments ahead of surgery so your orthodontist and oral surgeon can plan your treatment. This preparatory work may include X-rays or scans and models of your mouth. Around two weeks before your procedure, it’s important to start following your doctor’s pe-procedure instructions. For example, medications such as aspirin should be avoided because they can thin the blood, which could result in excessive bleeding after surgery.

What Happens During Jaw Surgery?

Orthognathic surgery can treat a protruding or receded upper jaw in a procedure called maxillary osteotomy. A protruding or receded lower jaw is corrected by mandibular osteotomy. These procedures are combined in double jaw surgery (bimaxillary osteotomy) when there are problems with both jaws. Surgery is generally done inside the mouth, so you won’t have facial scarring afterward. However, your oral surgeon may need to make a tiny external incision. This will be virtually invisible a few weeks after surgery.

During surgery, incisions are made in jawbone, and the jaws are moved into their correct position, where they’re held in place by small plates and screws. It’s unusual to have your jaws wired together afterward. Orthodontic elastics are used instead while your bite settles. In some cases, a bone graft may be required to increase bone volume in the jaw. Jaw surgery is usually done under general anesthesia.

Upper Jaw Surgery

The maxillary osteotomy procedure entails cutting bone above the upper teeth so the entire top jaw, including teeth and the roof of the mouth, can be moved in one piece until it aligns properly with the lower jaw.

Lower Jaw Surgery

With a mandibular osteotomy, incisions are made in bone behind the lower back teeth so the front of the bottom jaw can be repositioned as one unit into correct alignment with the upper jaw.

Recovery After Jaw Surgery

Initial healing after jaw surgery typically takes about six weeks. It can take up to 12 weeks for the jaw to heal completely. Patients usually return to work, school or college within one to three weeks. You can expect facial swelling for some time after surgery. This usually subsides gradually over a few weeks, but it may be a few months before your final facial appearance is apparent. Your oral surgeon can prescribe pain relief medication and advise you on oral hygiene and diet as you recover. Strenuous activity should be avoided.

Signs You May Need Jaw Surgery

Symptoms indicating jaw surgery may be necessary include:

  • Unbalanced appearance of the jawline.
  • Headaches and migraines or jaw pain caused by temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD).
  • Difficulties biting, chewing, or swallowing.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Problems with snoring, sleeping, or breathing caused by sleep apnea.
  • Excessive wear of the teeth.

Benefits of Jaw Surgery

Jaw surgery provides effective treatment when braces alone can’t correct misalignment of jaws and teeth. Orthognathic surgery improves your bite and dental functionality. This makes it easier to eat and speak properly. Sometimes it has minimal effect on facial appearance. But in other cases, there will be a more noticeable improvement in facial profile. Other benefits of jaw surgery by Des Moines oral surgeons include improved sleep, breathing, and swallowing, and increased self-confidence.

Are There Any Risks with Jaw Surgery?

Jaw surgery is generally a safe procedure, and complications are rare. However, all types of surgery carry some risks, including infection, an adverse reaction to anesthetic, heavy bleeding, and nerve damage.

Other potential risks of jaw surgery include:

  • Jaw fracture.
  • Loss of part of the jaw.
  • Shifting of the jaw to its original position.
  • Prolonged numbness in the lower lip.
  • Infection of the plates beneath the gum.
  • Nasal speech sounds.
  • Need for further surgery.
  • Need for root canal treatment.

Computer Imaging in Jaw Surgery Planning

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons at Des Moines Oral Surgeons PC use computer video imaging with 3D models when planning jaw surgery. This means they can show you how your jaw surgery will be performed. You’ll also get to see in advance how your bite, and possibly facial appearance, will be improved.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about jaw surgery at Oral Surgeons PC.