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Orthognathic Surgery: A Comprehensive Guide to Corrective Jaw Surgery

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Sometimes improper alignment of your upper and lower dentition can have an underlying cause related to your jaws. It goes beyond just poor teeth alignment. Such jaw discrepancies are successfully managed through maxillo-facial surgeries, especially orthognathic surgery. These procedures offered by the Houston dentist have come a long way in an attempt to offer you a perfect, flawless look and appearance. These surgical procedures help correct facial deformities and restore physical function. 

In this article, we will delve into the world of orthognathic surgery, exploring its history, reasons for the procedure, the surgery process, risks, recovery, and post-operative care.

What is orthognathic surgery?

Orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery or jaw surgery, is a medical procedure designed to correct conditions related to the jaw and lower face. The procedure aims to improve the alignment of the upper and lower jaws, enhancing facial aesthetics and addressing various health issues.

The origins of orthognathic surgery can be traced back to the 1940s when mandible and maxilla osteotomies were first used to correct dentofacial deformities like malocclusion and prognathism. Since then, advances in surgical techniques and anesthesia have made the procedure more effective and accessible.

Why is orthognathic surgery needed?

Orthognathic surgery is used to correct various conditions, including:

  • Gross jaw discrepancies (anteroposterior, vertical, or transverse discrepancies)
  • Skeletofacial discrepancies associated with documented sleep apnea, airway defects, and soft tissue discrepancies
  • Skeletofacial discrepancies associated with documented temporomandibular joint pathology
  • Dentofacial deformities (e.g., micrognathia, long face syndrome)
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Insufficient growth of the maxilla

How is the surgical procedure performed?

orthognathic surgery

Orthognathic surgery is typically performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a plastic surgeon in collaboration with an orthodontist. The procedure involves:

Consultation and evaluation 

  • This involves evaluation of your jaw discrepancies through photographs and impressions of your teeth, and recording your medical history. 
  • It provides the necessary information for your dentist to plan your surgery. 
  • It involves the following diagnostic tests:
    • X-rays
    • CT scan

Pre-surgical orthodontic treatment to align the teeth

  • Your orthodontist may remove teeth and put braces. 
  • You will probably wear braces for a year before your surgery, during your surgery, or several months after your surgery. 

Surgery to correct the jaw alignment

  • Jaw surgery corrects problems that make your jaws stick out too much or too little.
  • There are three types of jaw surgery:
    • Maxillary osteotomy
    • Mandibular osteotomy 
    • Double jaw surgery 

You will be provided with a plastic splint after the surgery. This helps train your mouth muscles to work with your new jaw position. You will need to wear it all the time, except when you eat it clean your teeth.

Are there complications or risks associated with orthognathic surgery?

As with any surgery, orthognathic surgery carries risks and complications, including:

  • Bleeding and swelling
  • Infection (up to 7%)
  • Nerve damage (temporary or permanent)
  • Facial numbness 
  • Relapse

What does post-procedure recovery involve?

The recovery period for orthognathic surgery varies depending on the complexity of the procedure. Patients typically experience:

  • Swelling and bruising that gradually resolves over time 
  • Pain and discomfort (managed with pain medication)
  • All-liquid diet for a few weeks
  • Weight loss
  • Immobilization of the jaw (wires or elastics) for 1-4 weeks
  • Follow-up appointments with the surgeon and orthodontist

Orthognathic surgery is a highly effective procedure that can improve facial aesthetics, alleviate health issues, and enhance overall quality of life. By understanding the history, reasons, process, risks, and recovery associated with orthognathic surgery, individuals can make informed decisions about their oral health. If you are experiencing jaw-related issues or dentofacial deformities, consult with your dentist or orthodontist to determine if orthognathic surgery is right for you.