While the focus of orthodontic treatment is to correct malocclusions or bad bites, surgical orthodontic treatment (also known as corrective jaw surgery or orthognathic surgery) corrects abnormalities of the facial bones, specifically the jaw. Often, these abnormalities cause difficulty associated with chewing, talking, breathing, sleeping and other routine activities. Surgical orthodontic treatment corrects these problems and, in conjunction with wearing braces, will improve the overall appearance of the facial profile. Both the jaw and teeth alignment will be corrected.
Typically, adult patients who are finished growing and have aesthetic concerns about their malocclusion are good candidates. For girls, jaw growth is usually completed by age 16, and for boys, jaw growth is completed by age 18. In order for surgical orthodontic treatment to be effective, patients must be finished with growing as a growth spurt can affect the results of the surgery. Teeth straightening, however, can be completed in the years beforehand.
When undergoing orthodontic treatment, your teeth will be moved into their corrected positions by braces. As your teeth move, it may seem as though your bite is getting worse rather than improving. This is likely not the case because once your jaw is properly aligned with surgical orthodontic treatment, your teeth will be in their perfect positions.
An oral surgeon will perform the orthognathic surgery in a hospital. The surgery can last for several hours depending on the severity of your situation. Typically with the lower jaw, the bone directly behind the teeth is separated, and the portion of the jaw with teeth is either moved forward or backward. With upper jaw surgery, the jaw can be moved in four directions: forward, backward, lifted or lowered. With this surgery, bone is usually added or removed to help accommodate the moving of the jaw. Other facial bones may also be altered or shifted to complete the facial alignment.
After surgery, you can return to school or work after only two weeks. You will need approximately four to eight weeks for healing, and after the healing period, your orthodontist will tweak your bite. If you have braces, they are typically removed within six months to a year after the surgery. After your braces are removed, you will wear your retainer for the prescribed amount of time.
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