When a patient has a misaligned bite, it may not be because their teeth are crooked but could be because their upper and lower jaw are not in alignment. This can cause people to have underbites, overbites, or crossbites which can cause physical issues like headaches and jaw pain as well as cause confidence issues. Jaw surgery may be the answer for these patients. Fortunately, many advancements have been made in how jaw surgery and orthodontics intersect.
Jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, can correct a patient’s bite, making a patient more comfortable physically and mentally. An orthodontist is often the first doctor to realize the severity of the misaligned and will help a patient connect with an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon and orthodontist will work closely together as the patient progresses in treatment toward their perfect smile and bite.
How Jaw Surgery Works
After a patient’s oral surgeon and orthodontist have worked together to create a treatment plan, a patient will go into surgery under the oral surgeon’s care. The patient will be placed under anesthesia to keep them from moving or experiencing discomfort. The jaw is aligned surgically and depending on the surgery needed, metal screws or plates may be placed inside their facial structure. After the surgery is completed and the patient wakes, they will be monitored while they heal for a day or two to make sure there are no complications. Patients may be given medication to help with pain, thought numbness is more often reported. Regular check-ups are scheduled during the recovery to monitor the healing with the oral surgeon and eventually the orthodontist.
If a patient is too young for their bones to have completed growing, jaw surgery will have to wait. In those old enough, jaw surgery can be used to correct many things including excessive wear of the teeth, difficulty closing the jaw, chronic mouth breathing, asymmetry of the face, TMJ, and sleep apnea. It can lead patients to improved swallowing, vocal abilities, comfort of the lips closing, and of course, confidence.
The Use of Braces in Jaw Surgery
There are three phases that braces are used in conjunction with orthognathic surgery, before surgery, during, and after. Before surgery an orthodontist will use braces to move the patient’s teeth into alignment. This will help the oral surgeon and orthodontist to determine how much of the misalignment is due to teeth and how much is due to the jaws being out of alignment. After the teeth are straight, the oral surgeon will then perform the surgery to properly line up the patient’s bite. Instead of wiring the mouth shut like used to be done, the oral surgeon will use the braces already worn by the patient as an anchor, using elastic bands to keep the jaw in place while it heals. After the jaw is completely healed, any minor adjustments can be made further with the braces. The patient will need to wear a retainer after their braces come off, just like any other braces patient.
The coordination of the orthodontist and oral surgeon is vital to ensuring proper treatment all the way through, but jaw surgery can be life-changing for patients and is well worth the attention to detail.