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Just as an orthodontist repositions teeth, surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) correct jaw irregularities to improve the patient’s ability to chew, speak and breathe as well as for improved facial appearances. In other words, surgical orthodontics straightens your jaw. Moving the jaw also moves the teeth, so braces are always used in conjunction with jaw correction. This helps to ensure that teeth are in their proper position after surgery.
Your orthodontist will consider surgical orthodontic treatment for non-growing adult patients with improper bites and those with facial aesthetic concerns. Jaw growth is usually completed by age 16 for girls and age 18 for boys. All growth must be completed before jaw surgery can be performed. However, the pre-surgical tooth movements can begin one to two years prior to these ages.
During your orthodontic treatment, which usually lasts six to 18 months, you wear braces and will visit your orthodontist for scheduled adjustments to your braces. As your teeth move with the braces, you may think that your bite is getting worse rather than better. However, when your jaws are placed into proper alignment during orthognathic surgery, the teeth will then fit into their proper positions.
Surgery is performed in an operating room and can take several hours, depending on the amount and type of surgery needed. In lower jaw surgery, the jawbone behind the teeth is separated and the tooth-bearing portion is moved forward or backward as needed. In upper jaw surgery, the jaw can be repositioned forward or backward, or the jaw can be raised or lowered. Certain movements may require the jaws to be separated, with bone added or removed to achieve the proper alignment and stability. Other facial bones that contribute to alignment may also be repositioned or augmented.
Once you have completed surgery, you should be able to return to school or work within two weeks. After the necessary healing time (about four to eight weeks), your orthodontist “fine-tunes” your bite. In most cases, braces are removed within six to 12 months following surgery. After your braces are removed, you will wear a retainer to maintain your beautiful new smile.
To learn more about surgical orthodontics, and to find out if this type of treatment is right for you, please contact our practice and schedule an orthodontic consultation.
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