Surgical procedures are one tool employed by the medical field to solve health-related issues. They can range from setting broken bones to organ transplants. Sometimes they’re purely for cosmetic reasons. The mouth – specifically the jaw – isn’t immune from surgery. Before opting for jaw surgery, learn what it entails.
The jaw consists of two bones; the maxilla and the mandible. The maxilla – more commonly known as the upper jaw – is fixed in place. While the lower jaw – the mandible – is the one that moves.
Formally referred to as orthognathic surgery, corrective jaw surgery repairs a slew of minor and major skeletal and dental irregularities according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS). Some of those irregularities include the misalignment of teeth and the jaw. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a specialist trained to perform corrective jaw surgery.
Jaw surgery can improve various oral issues notes the Mayo Clinic. It can solve biting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking issues. Jaw surgery can fix underbites, overbites, crossbites, and open bites. Relieving TMJ pain and aiding in sleep apnea relief are two more problems resolved by jaw surgery.
Though jaw surgery might provide the relief you seek, it certainly isn’t without risks according to the Oklahoman. Bleeding and infection are two main risks that can result from any surgery. Jaw surgery can cause you to lose feeling in the mandible due to nerve damage. Joint problems, tooth damage, incorrect jaw segment positioning, and permanent tingling in the lips or cheeks are other potential risks to weigh before electing surgery.
Preparing for Jaw Surgery
Before the actual surgery takes place, expect to wear braces on your teeth for 12 to 18 months notes the Mayo Clinic. Your orthodontist and the oral and maxillofacial surgeon then create a treatment plan. Different devices, including x-rays, pictures, models, three-dimensional CT scanning, and virtual surgical planning, can all be used to develop the optimal jaw position.
Before and During the Procedure
Expect to be given general anesthesia before surgery. The procedure occurs in a hospital by the oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Your hospital stay will be two to four days. Jaw surgery is almost always performed inside the mouth, according to the Mayo Clinic. But, sometimes small incisions outside the mouth are necessary.
The jawbones are then cut and correctly repositioned. Bone plates, screws, wires, and rubber bands can be used to secure the jaw’s new position. The screws become part of the jawbone structure. On occasion, the surgeon will take extra bone from your hip, leg, or rib to aid in securing the jaw’s new position.
An underbite – when the lower jaw extends beyond the upper jaw – is a common problem that is correctable by jaw surgery. According to the AAOMS, a portion of the rear jawbone is separated from the front portion. That bone is then modified so that the lower jaw portion that houses the teeth can be properly aligned by moving it back into the mouth.
The AAOMS offers some tips once the jaw surgery is complete. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon should prescribe a modified diet initially consisting of liquids and some solids. You’ll also receive a schedule as to when you can resume your typical consumption habits. Tobacco usage and strenuous activities will be off-limits for some time.
Any post-surgery pain can be controlled with medication. Patients can expect to resume their work or school schedule within one to three weeks. Expect the jaw to be fully healed in nine to twelve months.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Sam Muslin, DDS.
Steven Auger is a born and bred New Englander and lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Lauren, their young sons, Andrew and Adam, and their dog, Layla. In his spare time, he enjoys staying physically fit, traveling, and cooking. Follow him on Twitter.