What Is Orthognathic Jaw Surgery?

Are you having difficulties biting, chewing, or swallowing food? If you’re experiencing instances of the aforementioned cases, you might need to undergo orthognathic jaw surgery.

Orthognathic jaw surgery, also known as jaw surgery, is one of the most common corrective dental procedures usually performed by oral or maxillofacial surgeons. The primary purpose of this operation is to address unaligned jaws and teeth to improve how you speak and chew.

Further, this procedure may be advised if orthodontics alone isn’t enough to address your conditions. Your orthodontist will work together with an oral surgeon to devise a treatment plan suited for your jaw issues.

Here are the most common things orthognathic jaw surgery can do to help you:

  • It adjusts your bite or the position of your teeth when your mouth is closed;
  • It corrects issues that impact the alignment of your face;
  • It addresses breathing difficulties;
  • It makes basic oral functions easier, such as chewing, eating, and swallowing;
  • It corrects oral injury or congenital disorders, like a cleft palate; and
  • It prevents your teeth from wear and tear.

Furthermore, the right time to undergo orthognathic surgery is when the jaw reaches full growth, usually around the early 20s or late teens.

What Are The Different Types Of Orthognathic Jaw Surgery

Jaw surgery comes in different types, depending on the condition of your jaw. Here are the following types you might want to know:

  • Maxillary Osteotomy

Maxillary osteotomy focuses on correcting or treating the upper part of the jaw or the maxilla. Here are the following conditions that may call for this operation:

  • If your upper jaw is receding quickly;
  • If your upper jaw protrudes;
  • If you have an open bite where your molars (teeth at the back of your mouth) don’t touch when you close your mouth;
  • If you have a crossbite where some teeth below overlap the teeth above when you close your mouth; and
  • If you have midfacial hyperplasia where the middle part of your face didn’t grow well.

During the surgery, the surgeon will make a small cut above your upper teeth. Then, they’ll cut into the bone of your upper jaw to move it. Next, they’ll move it forward to fit it with your lower set of teeth. Some plates or screws may be installed to maintain the position. Finally, they’ll stitch the incision to close it and let it heal.

  • Mandibular Osteotomy

Mandibular osteotomy is the complete opposite of maxillary osteotomy. It’s performed to correct the misalignment of the lower jaw or the mandible. Usually, this procedure is done when there’s excessive protrusion and recession in the lower jaw.

The procedure is similar to maxillary osteotomy, and the only difference is where it’ll be done. Mandibular osteotomy starts by making a small incision on your lower jaw below your lower set of teeth. Then, your surgeon will cut through your bone, allowing your surgeon to move it wherever necessary.

After that, the jawbone can be moved backward or forward, depending on where it aligns perfectly with the upper teeth. Then, your surgeon will install plates and screws to maintain the adjusted position. Lastly, stitches will be applied to close the wound for proper healing.

  • Bimaxillary Osteotomy

Bimaxillary osteotomy is performed for jaw conditions that affect both upper and lower jaw portions. The procedure mentioned above for mandibular and maxillary osteotomy will be followed. Nevertheless, since operating both jaws can be complex, your surgeon might need 3D modeling programs to plan the process carefully.

  • TMJ Surgery

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) surgery is usually recommended when other methods discussed above don’t work well. Here are some types of TMJ surgery you might want to know:

  • Open Joint Surgery – Also known as arthrotomy, open joint surgery works by making an incision around your ear to replace or remove the affected parts.
  • Arthroscopy – During arthroscopy, your surgeon makes a tiny cut to insert a thin tube into your joint. This tube has small tools that allow the surgeon to do their job.
  • Arthrocentesis – This slightly invasive operation uses needles to transport fluid to your TMJ. It lubricates your joints and eliminates debris that may cause inflammation.

What You Should Know Before, During, And After The Surgery

Undergoing an orthognathic jaw surgery procedure can do a hard number on your oral health and body. Here are the things you need to expect before you undergo orthognathic jaw surgery:

  • Before The Operation

In most cases, your orthodontist may require you to have braces or aligners that’ll prepare your teeth months before the operation. Plus, you might need to attend several appointments to plan out the medical procedure carefully, which may include preparing molds, taking measurements, and laying out 3D modeling.

  • During The Operation

The procedure will start with general anesthesia, making you fall asleep throughout the operation. Typically, jaw surgeries may take around two to five hours, depending on the gravity of your condition. Additionally, it’s less likely to scar your face or chin since the procedure will mainly work on the insides of your mouth.

  • After The Operation

In most cases, patients may stay around one to four days in the hospital after the operation. When you’re ready to leave, your surgeon will give you important instructions regarding eating habits and oral hygiene routine.

On top of that, you may feel initial stiffness and swelling over your face and jaw. This is normal and may relieve after several weeks. Typically, the recovery period can last up to 12 weeks. During this period, your orthodontist may give you braces to align your teeth continuously. After using braces, you have the option to have retainers to maintain the proper alignment of your teeth.

What Are The Risk Of Undergoing Orthognathic Jaw Surgery

Here’s the good news: having jaw surgery is relatively and practically safe. Yet like all surgeries, it comes with risks you need to understand. But don’t worry. Your orthodontist or surgeon will discuss these and help you come up with a decision.

Here are some potential risks of orthognathic jaw surgery:

  • New symptoms of TMJ pain;
  • Relapse where the jaw moves back to its original position;
  • Heavy bleeding;
  • Jaw fractures;
  • Nerve injuries;
  • Infection in the affected area; and
  • Biting problems after the surgery.

In addition, it’s important to note that some surgeries may be riskier than others, though the chances are only small. On a side note, a study in 2019 found that bimaxillary osteotomy is riskier than mandibular and maxillary osteotomy. This is probably because the procedure consists of two separate surgeries, making it a more difficult medical procedure than one surgery alone.

Final Words

Orthognathic jaw surgery is typically done to correct the misalignment of the jaw to improve chewing, biting, and speaking. The surgery can be done in the upper, lower, or both parts of the jaw.

On top of that, jaw surgery comes in different types. Your surgeon will help you choose the right operation based on your diagnosis.

While jaw surgery is generally safe in most cases, it’s still important to know the risks it entails. Your surgeon will discuss all of these before your operation.


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