Corrective jaw surgery will reshape or reposition the jaw bones. The surgery may be done on the upper jaw, lower jaw, or both. This surgery may also be called: Maxillary osteotomy—upper jawMandibular osteotomy—lower jaw
The bone should heal in about 6 weeks. It will take about 9-12 months before the jaw heals completely.
The Upper and Lower Jaw Bones
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This surgery is done to correct a problem of the jaw bone.
The jaw is the platform for the teeth. Certain jaw problems make it difficult for the upper and lower teeth to line up correctly. The misalignment can cause: Difficultly chewing or bitingSpeech problemsChallenges with breathingProblems breathing during sleep, such as sleep apneaJaw pain
The surgery may also be done to repair cosmetic problems. This may include receding chin, protruding jaw, or lips that don’t meet. It may also be done to repair problems from: Facial injuriesBirth defectsGenetic conditionsBone disease or conditions that affect bone growth
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: Numbness or pain in sinuses, ears, or teethExcess bleedingNo improvement in symptomsPoor cosmetic outcomeAdverse reaction to anesthesia, such as lightheadedness, low blood pressure, and wheezingInfectionNausea and vomiting
Factors that may increase the risk of problems include: SmokingBleeding disordersChronic health conditions, such as heart disease
Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.
The change in your jaw will require a change in the position of your teeth. To prepare your teeth for the surgery, you may have several months of dental care. Your dentist may use braces or similar tools to help shift your teeth into the correct position.
Closer to your surgery, you may have x-ray and models of your teeth done. This will help guide surgical work.
Talk to your doctor if you take any medications, herbs, or supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
You may be asked to not eat or drink anything starting the night before your surgery.
General anesthesia will be used. It will block pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
The exact procedure will depend on your specific needs. Most incisions will be made inside the mouth. Some incisions may need to be made outside of the mouth.
The specific work done on the bones will depend on your needs. Some steps may include: Removing a section of boneSeparating a portion of the jaw so that is can be moved backward or forwardReattaching the new edges of bone with metal plates, screws, or wires
The bones will be adjusted until the upper and lower teeth are lined up.
The incisions may be closed with stitches or a special liquid that acts like glue. Gauze may be placed over the surgical wounds. The gauze will stay in place for a few hours after surgery. Rubber bands may also be used with a dental appliance. They will help keep your jaw in alignment until your jaw heals.
After the operation, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. The gauze may be removed when you wake up.
Ice may be placed around your jaw to decrease swelling.
The length of surgery will depend on the changes made to your jaw. It may be 2-4 hours.
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. As you recover, you may have some pain. Your doctor will give you medication to manage any pain.
You may need to stay in the hospital for 2-5 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
You will be asked to start with a modified diet. Depending on the details of your surgery, your doctor may recommend just liquids at first or soft solids. You will be given a schedule to work back toward your normal diet.
You will be able to notice cosmetic change right away. Your jaw will need to heal before you can do normal movements. As a result, it may take some time to feel the improvements in bite or jaw movement.
Certain activities will need to be avoided until the jaw is healed. You will be instructed on how to care for the incision site to prevent infection. Dietary changes may be need to be maintained at home until the doctor says it is okay to return to a normal diet. A dietitian will help with meal planning.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, excess bleeding, or discharge from the surgery siteFoul smelling breathPersistent nausea or vomitingPain that you cannot control with the medications you were givenSpitting or vomiting bloodNew or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Corrective jaw surgery. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons website. Available at:
http://myoms.org/procedures/corrective-jaw-surgery. Accessed September 6, 2016.
Home care after surgery. Fallon Oral Surgery of Syracuse. Available at:
http://www.fallonoralsurgery.com/forms/Home_Care_After_Surgery.pdf. Accessed September 6, 2016.
Orthognathic surgery. Harvard Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Available at:
http://www.massgeneral.org/omfs/services/procedure.aspx?id=2166. Accessed September 6, 2016.
Oral wound care after Mohs Surgery. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Available at:
http://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/wound-skin/4941.html. Accessed September 6, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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