Whereas orthodontics repositions teeth, surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) corrects jaw irregularities and improves patients' ability to chew, speak, and breathe. It can help to improve facial aesthetics as well.
In short, 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?
Non-growing adult patients with improper bites and those with facial aesthetic concerns may be considered for surgical orthodontic treatment.
Jaw growth must be finished before jaw surgery can be performed, and is usually complete by age 16 for girls and by age 18 for boys. The pre-surgical tooth movements can begin one to two years prior to these ages.
How does the jaw surgery process work?
During the approximate 6-18 months of our orthodontic treatment, you'll wear your braces and visit your orthodontist for scheduled adjustment appointments.
As your teeth begin to move with the braces, you may notice that your bite seems to be getting worse rather than better.
However, this is only because your teeth are being straightened in anticipation for your surgery, at which point jaws will placed into proper alignment. After that, the teeth will fit into their proper positions.
Surgery is performed by an oral surgeon in a hospital, 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 "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.