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Surgical orthodontics, also known as orthognathic surgery, is a type of orthodontic treatment used to correct severe cases that include bad bites, jaw bone abnormalities, and malocclusion. Oral and maxillofacial surgery focuses on treating complex craniofacial cases that involve the mouth, jaw, face and skull. Your orthodontist will work with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to ensure that, if you need surgical orthodontics, you receive the best care possible.
When might surgical orthodontics be needed?
Surgical orthodontics may be used to treat adults with improper bites or other aesthetic concerns. Typically, jaw growth stops by age 16 in females and 18 in males. In order to receive orthognathic surgery, the jaw must be finished growing. The need for surgical orthodontics occurs when the jaws do not line up correctly, and a proper bite cannot be achieved with orthodontic treatment alone.
How do I know if I need orthognathic surgery?
Your orthodontist can tell you if orthognathic surgery is needed as part of your treatment. Depending on the severity of your case and the alignment of your jaw, you may or may not need surgery.
How does orthognathic surgery work?
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon will perform your orthognathic surgery, which will take place in a hospital. Orthognathic surgery can take several hours depending on each individual case. Once the surgery is complete, you will have about a two-four week rest period. Since orthognathic surgery is a major treatment, we recommend you schedule some time away from work and school for the healing process. After your jaw has healed, your orthodontist will once again “fine-tune” your bite. After surgery, you will have to continue to wear braces. Most braces are removed within six to 12 months following surgery. After your braces are removed, you will wear a retainer to help maintain your new smile.
What types of bites may benefit from jaw surgery?
For patients with a short mandible the chin may appear set back or weak in appearance. This short lower jaw bone typically results in excessive space between the top and bottom front teeth and they do not touch when the patient bites down normally. To correct this, the Oral Surgeon would surgically reposition the lower jaw forward and bring balance to the facial profile and allow all the teeth to touch when the patient bites down.
This jaw size imbalance is caused by excessive lower jaw bone growth, causing an underbite. In this situation it is impossible for people to bite with their front teeth (depending on the severity) as they cannot touch. To correct this jaw size discrepancy the Oral Surgeon would shorten the lower jaw bone and in essence push it backwards.
Maxillary Impaction (Gummy Smile)
Some people show excessive gingival tissue both at rest and when they smile (gummy smile). This may be caused by a number of factors. If it is due to excessive downward growth of the Maxilla, then that jawbone can be reposition upwards to give a more pleasing appearance.