When the jaws don’t fit together correctly, which is known as a malocclusion, it is more difficult to chew and speak, and the facial appearance also is negatively affected. Patients with malocclusions may also suffer from discomfort related to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Malocclusions typically occur when the upper and lower jaws develop at different rates. Injuries or congenital defects can also cause problems with the fit of the jaws.
Some malocclusions can be addressed solely through orthodontic appliances, especially in younger children whose jaws have not fully developed. Other patients will need orthognathic surgery, a corrective procedure repositions the jaws to correct a misaligned bite. Adults whose jaws have stopped growing are likely to require surgery in cases of ill-fitting jaws.
Orthognathic surgery is often performed in conjunction with orthodontic treatment. Your oral surgeon will consult with the orthodontist to determine the timing of the surgery, which must occur after the teeth are moved into certain positions. Your orthodontist and oral surgeon may use advanced technological imaging in order to better plan and prepare for the surgery.
This corrective jaw surgery can involve a number of techniques to bring the jaws into alignment, such as removing excess bone material in the upper jaw, which makes the face seem abnormally long, or in the lower jaw, which causes an underbite.
Most patients will undergo orthognathic surgery in a hospital or a specialized surgical center. This surgery can be extensive, and patients should plan for their post-operative needs in advance of the appointment. For the first few weeks after the surgery, the patient will need to eat a softer diet to avoid interfering with the healing process. Some patients may even have their jaws wired shut to ensure that they remain in the correct positions.
Orthognathic surgery can have a major impact on your smile and help you chew more effectively. If your orthodontist suggests this procedure as part of your treatment plan, visit one of our oral surgeons to learn more about the process and its benefits.