Surgery is always a last resort as treatment for orthodontic problems but there are cases where surgery is needed, for example misaligned jaws. This is known as ‘orthognathic surgery’.
Surgery forms part of orthodontic treatment. It is performed to realign the bones of the jaw before a fixed brace is inserted in order to straighten the teeth. Both the jaws and teeth need to be moved into their correct position to achieve a ‘good bite’.
Orthognathic surgery is used to treat the following problems:
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- Sleep apnoea
- Cleft palate (children only)
- Other facial irregularities
The jaw bone is cut and re-aligned: it is held in place with metal plates and screws or in some cases, screws only.
Preparing for orthodontic surgery
You will be fitted with a fixed brace before surgery which has to be worn during and after the procedure. So in order to give you the best possible outcome after surgery, it is a good idea to avoid crunchy foods, sugars and fizzy drinks.
You will be advised about what to eat before and after the surgery.
Orthognathic surgery is usually performed by a team of professionals which includes a maxillofacial surgeon and an orthodontist. It is carried out under out under a general anaesthetic which means staying in hospital for several days afterwards.
The surgeon makes an incision in one or both jaws which is done inside your mouth. He/she then realigns the jaw with the help of fixed braces which helps him/her to guide the jaws into the correct position. Small metal plates and screws are inserted on top of the jawbone and under the skin to secure the jawbone in place.
The fixed braces remain in place after surgery.
You will remain in hospital for 4 to 5 days.
Will my jaws be wired together during surgery?
Wiring the jaws was a standard procedure but this is rarely performed nowadays with preference given to metal plates and screws instead.
After the surgery
Your jaws will feel sore and swollen afterwards and you may have some numbness in your lower lip. But this will soon pass.
It can take from 1 to 3 years for the surgery and brace to move your jaws and teeth into their desired position. You will have regular checks up with the orthodontist to check the results of the surgery as well as making any adjustments to your brace.
You will be fitted with a retainer once the treatment has finished which helps to keep the realigned teeth in their new position. This retainer is worn for up to 6 months.
Continue with your regular check ups at your dentist.