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What is jaw surgery?

Corrective jaw surgery (also known as orthognathic surgery) is used to correct upper and lower jaw imbalance and abnormalities, especially those that cannot be fixed with braces alone. In some cases, the patient’s teeth do not fit together properly (malocclusion), the airway is obstructed during sleep (obstructed sleep apnea) and/or the balance and appearance of the face needs improvement. Some of these issues may be caused by craniofacial conditions, such as cleft lip, cleft palate and syndromic craniosynostosis. 

At Cohen Children’s, our network of pediatric services, our expert surgeons and dedicated orthodontist will work together using the latest technologies to achieve successful treatment. We typically treat patients between the ages of 15 and 17 but can also treat adults when necessary.

What to expect

Before surgery, our orthodontist will use a CAT scan and 3D virtual simulation surgery to create cutting-edge, patient-specific splints and models. This helps the surgeon determine how to align the teeth in a certain way in order to get the appropriate configuration, within 1 millimeter of accuracy. The patient may also have to wear braces for a year or more to help properly align the teeth in the upper and lower jaw. 

During surgery, the doctor will break the bone and move it into the appropriate position, which may require moving the upper jaw, the lower jaw or both.

In addition to jaw surgery (or in place of it), we can perform a genioplasty, where we reshape, advance or shorten the chin to complete your facial profile.

Complications

  • Need for additional/repeat procedures
  • Temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) issues
  • Velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI), or unintelligible speech due to air escaping out of the nose (due to the stretching of the palate)

Recovery

Most patients spend one to two nights in the hospital after jaw surgery. (Patients undergoing just a genioplasty often return home the day of their operation.) You may experience swelling and will be given pain medications to take home.

Elastic rubber bands are usually placed on your braces to guide you into your new bite. Be sure to keep your teeth and mouth clean. You may need to be on a soft or pureed food diet for four to six weeks after the operation.

Your orthodontist will start making final adjustments to your teeth about six weeks post-op. Your final bite will take about six months total to complete. Once your braces are taken off, it is critical that you wear your retainer as instructed.

After the process is over, most of our patients find it easier to chew and bite and are pleased with the change in their appearance.

Frequently asked questions

Can I have corrective jaw surgery without orthodontic treatment?

No. Typically, orthodontics are required to move the teeth into the appropriate position before surgery.

Can I correct my problem with just orthodontic treatment without jaw surgery?

Yes, but it is not optimal, given the fact that the main problem is the position of the bone.

Is improving my jaw alignment really that important? I’ve become accustomed to uncomfortable chewing.

Yes, it is important for both function and cosmetic purposes. Correcting jaw alignment puts less stress on your temporal mandibular joint (TMJ), and it also improves the shape of the face, particularly in the profile.

I have impacted wisdom teeth. Do they need to come out ahead of time, or can they be taken out during my corrective jaw surgery?

They have to come out ahead of time, at least six months prior to surgery.

Can I have lingual braces or Invisalign® instead of regular braces?

You will need to discuss this with your orthodontist, as this is determined on a case by case basis.

I read that my oral surgeon will use screws and plates in corrective jaw surgery. Are these eventually removed?

No, they are usually permanent, but will have no impact on your function. They also do not affect metal detectors.

Will my insurance cover the surgery?

This depends on your insurance company and is determined on an individual basis. However, it is usually covered.