The face is probably one of the most important parts of your body to you. Not only is it the prime focus of your appearance but it is also responsible for several daily functions important for good health. Eating, breathing, smell, taste, speech, air chambers allowing for voice resonance, and sight are some of these functions.
Among the bones of the face are the upper and the lower jaws. These contain the teeth and enable proper chewing, swallowing and speech. Along with the other facial bones, they give the bony support to the soft tissues of the face that allows for pleasing aesthetic contours. Function and appearance are so closely related in this area that it is often difficult to separate the two. If a person has a deficiency or excess in the jaws, it may cause chewing, expiratory or aesthetic problems. This can be corrected by repositioning the misaligned structures. This type of surgery is called ortho (straight) gnathic (jaw).
Orthognathic surgery is needed when jaws don't meet correctly and/or teeth don't seem to fit with jaws. Teeth are straightened with orthodontics, and corrective jaw surgery repositions misaligned jaws. This not only improves facial appearance, but also ensures that teeth meet correctly and function properly.
Who Needs Orthognathic Surgery?
There are many people who can benefit from orthognathic surgery. Jaw growth is a gradual process and in many instances the upper and lower jaws will grow a different rates. This will result in retruding, protruding or narrow jaws. This disharmonious alignment will cause improper bite that will affect chewing, speech, and aesthetics. At times these problems can be evident at birth while at other times they develop during growth. Trauma at any age can also alter jaw relationships.
While orthodontics (braces) can correct bite problems, only if the teeth are involved, surgery is required if the jaw bones need to be realigned. This will not only increase proper function, but enhance aesthetics as well. Surgery can be done at almost any age and can be combined with cosmetic procedures if required or desired.
Difficulty in the following areas should be evaluated:
- difficulty in chewing, biting or swallowing
- speech problems
- chronic jaw or TMJ pain
- open bite
- protruding jaw
- breathing problems
Any of these can exist at birth or may be acquired after birth as a result of hereditary or environmental influences or, trauma to the face. Before treatment begins, preliminary records such as dental models, x-rays and pictures are obtained. Tracings and measurements of the above in conjunction with the clinical examination will enable the doctor to arrive at a diagnosis. This diagnosis will determine which areas will need surgery and how this will take place. It is during the pre-operative phase where you are encouraged to ask questions and become fully involved with the treatment planning. Patient understanding is a very important and vital part of this process.
Technology and Orthognathic Surgery
During this phase, your surgeon will work closely with your dentist and orthodontist to coordinate treatment. Mock surgery will be performed on the models and x-ray tracings to educate you about the procedure and give you an approximate idea of the final results. When you are comfortable with the aspects of your care, you and your dental team will make the decision to proceed with treatment.
Commonly Asked Questions
Q: Will the surgery hurt?
A: No. All of the surgery is done with general anesthesia so you will not feel or remember anything.
Q: Will there be any scars?
A: No. The jaw surgery is done inside the mouth so there is no facial scarring.
Q: Will my mouth be wired closed?
A: Maybe. Depending on the type of procedure, you may not be wired closed at all or you may need closure from two to six weeks.
Q: What can I eat?
A: You will be placed on a liquid diet. We have many recipes and booklets that will ensure your good health. We will also have you consult with a nutritionist if we feel that it is necessary.
Q: How long will I be in the hospital?
A: Anywhere from same day surgery up to two days post-operatively.
Q: Will it hurt afterwards?
A: Some discomfort is to be expected but we will give you adequate pain medication to make you comfortable, both while in the hospital and when you are at home.
Q: Will I be swollen?
A: Yes. Although you will be given medicine to lessen swelling, some is to be expected in the first week. Most of the swelling is gone within two weeks..
Q: When can I resume my daily routines?
A: Usually a one week recuperative period is required followed by gradually increasing your activities until you feel back to normal.
Q: Will I need antibiotics?
A: Yes. Even though infection is rare, antibiotics are given during and after surgery to lessen its occurrence.