What is Surgical Orthodontics?
Just as orthodontics re-positions teeth, surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) corrects jaw irregularities to improve your 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. Some cases can be prepared for surgery using Invisalign instead of metal braces.
Who Needs Surgical Orthodontics?
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 19 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 orthodontic treatment, which usually lasts 6-18 months, you wear braces (or Invisalign) and will visit your orthodontist for scheduled adjustments. As your teeth move, 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 fit into their proper positions.
Surgery is performed by a Maxillo-facial oral surgeon, and can take from one to 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 re-positioned forward or backward, or the jaw can be raised or lowered. Other facial bones that contribute to alignment may also be re-positioned or augmented.
When you have completed surgery, you should be able to return to school or work within two weeks. After the necessary healing time (about 4-8 weeks), your orthodontist “fine-tunes” your bite.
After your braces are removed, you will wear a retainer to maintain your beautiful new smile and facial appearance.