Surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) corrects jaw irregularities and misalignment to improve the patient´s ability to chew, speak, breathe and for improved facial appearances. Moving and changing the jaw relationship also moves the teeth, so braces are always performed in conjunction with jaw correction to ensure that the teeth are in their proper positions after surgery.
Non-growing adult patients with improper bites and those with facial esthetic concerns are good candidates for jaw surgery. Jaw growth is usually 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 12-24 months, you wear braces and will visit your orthodontist for scheduled adjustments. 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 the 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. Surgical cuts are general done inside the oral cavity so that there are no external marks or scars. The jaws can be repositioned forward or backward, or the jaws 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.
During recovery it is recommended to take 1-2 weeks off, and then you should be able to return to school or work. After the necessary healing time (about 4-6 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.