Just as orthodontics repositions teeth, surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) corrects jaw irregularities to improve your ability to chew, speak, and breathe as well as making you look better in general. In other words, surgical orthodontics straightens your jaw. Moving the jaws also moves the teeth, so we always use braces in conjunction with jaw correction. This helps make sure teeth are in their proper positions after surgery.
Dr. Allen will consider surgical orthodontic treatment for non-growing adult patients that suffer from improper bites and those with facial esthetic concerns. Typically, jaw growth is completed by age 16 for girls and 18 for boys. All growth must be completed before jaw surgery can be performed. However, the pre-surgical tooth movements can begin one to two years prior to these ages.
During your orthodontic treatment, which usually lasts 6-18 months, you’ll wear braces and will visit your orthodontist for scheduled adjustments and check-ins. 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 can take several hours, depending on the amount and type of surgery needed. In 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, or the jaw can be raised or lowered. Certain movements may require the jaws to be separated, with bone added/removed 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 will “fine-tune” 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 new smile throughout your life.