Have you recently decided or been informed that you need corrective jaw surgery to fix your bite, realign your jaw or treat obstructive sleep apnea?

Whether you have been born with misaligned jaws (under or overbite, small chin) or developed a facial abnormality (chin point deviation, open bite, crooked nose) after trauma or disease, it’s important to familiarise yourself with all the information regarding corrective jaw (Orthognathic) surgery, the type of jaw surgery you need, and what to expect after undergoing jaw surgery.

What kind of doctor performs jaw surgery?

Corrective jaw surgery, also known as Orthognathic surgery is performed by specialist surgeons with training in oral and maxillofacial surgery techniques.

This type of surgery is designed to correct the misalignment of jaws, chin and teeth, and results in changes to facial shape (including nasal profile, chin and lower facial position). The main purpose is the correction of minor and major skeletal as well as dental irregularities. Although corrective jaw surgery can significantly enhance a patient’s appearance, it is typically performed to correct functional problems such as difficulty with chewing, speaking and breathing.

Reasons for corrective jaw surgery

Corrective jaw surgery may be necessary if you experience:

  • Difficulty with chewing or biting food
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Chronic jaw pain and headaches
  • Excessive or advanced tooth wear
  • Open bites
  • Facial injury
  • Birth defects
  • An unbalanced facial appearance
  • Receding lower jaw and chin
  • Protruding jaw
  • Sleep apnea (severe or patients intolerant of CPAP machines) or breathing problems while sleeping

What are the stages of corrective jaw surgery?

The three phases of corrective jaw surgery include:

  • Pre-surgical orthodontic treatment: Before your surgery, your Orthodontist (specialist dentist) will level and align your teeth with braces. This alignment process can take between twelve to eighteen months. This phase is not required for every patient and will be decided upon after initial consultation.
  • Surgical treatment: A specialist surgeon (Oral & Maxillofacial) will assess your facial shape and carry out 3-Dimensional virtual surgery on your CT scans prior to considering an actual operation. The results of this planning will allow for the creation of custom made surgical guides and templates to assist in making sure that surgery proceeds according to the needs of the patient. The custom guides also mean that operating time is reduced (less anaesthetic time), operative complications are avoided (nerves and vital structures are preserved) and surgical accuracy is optimised. An operation date is then scheduled to surgically reposition your upper jaw, lower jaw, chin and nose (or combinations thereof) to achieve an ideal alignment between your teeth and jaw bones (chin, nose and lips). This surgery is performed in a hospital (InPatient for 2-3 days) and the procedure takes approximately two to four hours to complete.
  • Post-surgical orthodontics: If you started with Orthodontic treatment (Phase 1), then you will typically need to wear braces for three to six months after your surgery. Once your braces have been removed, your Orthodontist may recommend using a retainer to maintain the position of your teeth and prevent relapse. If you didn’t have braces in Phase 1 then you don’t need them after surgery.

Is jaw surgery painful?

Most patients will be retained in the hospital for 2-3 days to ensure they have access to effective pain relief. Upon release from Hospital, pain is well controlled with scripted tablet form medication, which may be needed for a further seven to ten days after surgery.

Following jaw surgery, nerves in the jaws are slightly bruised and transmit less feeling and pain.

Types of jaw surgery

All jaw surgery procedures are performed via incisions inside the mouth and visible facial scars are not associated with this type of operation. There are three different types of jaw surgery:

  • Upper jaw surgery (maxillary osteotomy): Upper jaw surgery is performed to correct a significantly receded or protruding upper jaw, cross-bite, open bite, or mid-facial hypoplasia (receded mid-facial and nasal shape or profile). During the procedure, the maxilla (bone attached to your upper teeth) is detached from the base of the nose and cheekbones. The entire top jaw (including the roof of your mouth, upper teeth and structures supporting the nose) is then repositioned to fit properly with your lower teeth and facial shape. The result corrects the dental bite, adjusts the smile line (lip drape across the teeth), reshapes the nasal profile (tip and septum) and improves nasal breathing.
  • Lower jaw surgery (mandibular osteotomy): Lower jaw surgery can correct a receded (hypoplastic) or protruding (hyperplastic) lower jaw. The procedure involves detaching the jaw joints (TMJs) from the bone housing the teeth and chin. Next, the tooth-bearing jawbone is moved into a new position, either forward or backwards depending on the best adjustment and bite alignment. This type of surgery can correct the dental bite, improve the profile of the lower face and correct crooked chins (deviations or asymmetries).
  • Chin surgery (genioplasty): Chin surgery can enlarge a small chin (severely receded lower jaw), correct chin asymmetry or help to allow lip closure over the teeth (lip competence). This type of procedure can be performed in combination with or without surgery to the upper and lower jaws. The result improves the profile of the lower face and allows correction of crooked chins.

How long does it take to heal from corrective jaw surgery?

Most people will require two to four weeks break from their usual timetables. Initial healing of the jaw bones will take approximately six to eight weeks, though complete healing will take up to 12 weeks. Once fully healed the bone is as strong as it was prior to surgery and there are no limits to sporting activities.

How to recover from jaw surgery fast

Two things are important to remember for anyone undergoing jaw surgery:

  1. Wound healing and recovery require extra energy and good nutrition.
  2. Your ability to eat anything is reduced (chewing is uncomfortable, jaw opening is limited by facial swelling).

Therefore your recovery will be easier and faster if:

  • You maintain a diet of soft easy to eat (semi-fluid consistency) foods
  • You take pain medications as directed
  • You make sure you get plenty of rest
  • You report any problems early
  • You start to slowly move around again only once you feel stronger

Once you leave the hospital after surgery

Once you have been discharged from the Hospital following your surgery, ensure you collect your prescribed medications. Continue with modified foods that could be slurped from a spoon or sucked through a straw. (milkshakes, scrambled eggs, yoghurt, smoothies, soups and broths). Rinse your mouth three times per day (post meals) with mouth rinse (or warm salty water) while carefully brushing any teeth that you can comfortably reach with a baby toothbrush.

What can you eat when you have jaw surgery?

Following corrective jaw surgery, your body will require sufficient nutrition and vitamins for proper bone and tissue healing.

After your jaw surgery, focus on pureed high protein and calorie-rich foods by blending meats and dairy foods with vegetables. Drink plenty of nourishing fluids, such as homemade soups, milk, and fruit smoothies.

Orthognathic surgery complications

Short-term complications of corrective surgery may include:

  • Mild to moderate pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Temporary numbness – lips and chin
  • Tingling, especially near the chin, nose, lips, cheeks or tongue
  • Minor bleeding (from the nose and/or mouth)
  • Jaw joint (TMJ) pain or limited movements
  • Infection at the incision sites
  • Nausea or vomiting

All of these procedures carry the risk of longer-term complications and it is important to consider the risks versus the benefits prior to embarking on treatment. When performed by experienced specialist surgeons using the latest planning and surgical techniques, the risks of long term issues are low.

Do you want more information? Then book a consultation with the specialist surgeons at the Dental Implant & Specialist Centre today to discuss your corrective jaw surgery. Contact us today on (07) 5503 17