What is surgical orthodontics?
Just as orthodontics repositions teeth, surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) corrects jaw irregularities to improve the patients ability to chew, speak, and breathe and for improved facial appearances. In other words, surgical orthodontics straightens your jaws. Moving the jaws also moves the teeth, so braces are always performed in conjunction with jaw correction. This helps make sure teeth are in their proper positions after surgery.
Who needs surgical orthodontics?
Surgical orthodontic treatment can be provided for non-growing adult patients with improper bites and those with facial aesthetic concerns. Jaw growth is usually completed by age 16-18 for girls and 18-21 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.
How does it work?
During your pre-surgical orthodontic treatment, which usually lasts 12 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 the hospital with an oral surgeon, and can take several hours, depending on the amount and type of surgery needed. Surgery may be performed on the upper jaw, the lower jaw, or in some cases, both. Both jaws have the capacity to be moved forward or backward, upward or downward, in varying degrees in order to position them into a more ideal relationship. In some cases, the jaws may be segmented, or other facial bones may be included in the surgical plan to achieve that goal.
When you have completed surgery, you should be able to return to school or work within two weeks. After the necessary healing time (about 8 weeks), your orthodontist “fine-tunes” your bite. In most cases, braces are removed within 12 months following surgery. After your braces are removed, you will wear retainers to maintain your beautiful new smile.