Corrective jaw, or orthognathic, surgery is performed by Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons to correct a wide range of minor and major skeletal and dental irregularities, including the misalignment of jaws and teeth, which, in turn, can improve chewing, speaking and breathing. While the patient's appearance may be dramatically enhanced as a result of their surgery, orthognathic surgery is performed to correct functional problems.


Following are some of the conditions that may indicate the need for corrective jaw surgery:

  • difficulty chewing, or biting food
  • difficulty swallowing
  • chronic jaw or jaw joint (TMJ) pain and headache
  • excessive wear of the teeth
  • open bite (space between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed)
  • unbalanced facial appearance from the front, or side
  • facial injury or birth defects
  • receding chin
  • protruding jaw
  • inability to make the lips meet without straining
  • chronic mouth breathing and dry mouth
  • sleep apnea (breathing problems when sleeping, including snoring)

Who Needs Corrective Jaw Surgery?

People who may benefit from corrective jaw surgery include those with an improper bite resulting from misaligned teeth and/or jaws. In some cases, the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. Injuries and birth defects may also affect jaw alignment. While orthodontics can usually correct bite, or "occlusion," problems when only the teeth are misaligned, corrective jaw surgery may be necessary to correct misalignment of the jaws.

Evaluating Your Need for Corrective Jaw Surgery

Your dentist, orthodontist and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon will work together to determine whether you are a candidate for corrective jaw, or orthognathic, surgery. The Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon determines which corrective jaw surgical procedure is appropriate and performs the actual surgery. It is important to understand that your treatment, which will probably include orthodontics before and after surgery, may take several years to complete. Your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and orthodontist understand that this is a long-term commitment for you and your family.They will try to realistically estimate the time required for your treatment.

Corrective jaw surgery may reposition all or part of the upper jaw, lower jaw and chin. When you are fully informed about your case and your treatment options, you and your dental team will determine the course of treatment that is best for you.

Correction of Common Dentofacial Deformities

Correcting an Open Bite:

Some of the bone in the upper tooth-bearing portion of the jaw is removed. The upper jaw is then secured in position with plates and screws.

Correcting a Protruding Lower Jaw:

The bone in the rear portion of the jaw is separated from the front portion and modified so that the tooth-bearing portion of the lower jaw can be moved back for proper alignment.

Correcting a Receding Lower Jaw or "Weak Chin":

The bone in the lower portion of the jaw is separated from its base and modified. The tooth-bearing portion of the lower jaw and a portion of the chin are repositioned forward.

What Is Involved in Corrective Jaw Surgery?

Before your surgery, orthodontic braces move the teeth into a new position. Because your teeth are being moved into a position that will fit together after surgery, you may at first think your bite is getting worse rather than better. When your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon repositions your jaws during surgery, however, your teeth should fit together properly.
As your pre-surgical orthodontic treatment nears completion, additional or updated records, including x-rays, pictures and models of your teeth, may be taken to help guide your surgery.

Depending on the procedure, corrective jaw surgery may be performed under general anesthesia in a hospital, an ambulatory surgical center or in the oral and maxillofacial surgery office. Surgery may take from one to several hours to complete.

Your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon will reposition the jawbones in accordance with your specific needs. In some cases, bone may be added, taken away or reshaped. Surgical plates, screws, wires and rubber bands may be used to hold your jaws in their new positions. Incisions are usually made inside the mouth to reduce visible scarring; however, some cases do require small incisions outside of the mouth. When this is necessary, care is taken to minimize their appearance.

After surgery, your surgeon will provide instructions for a modified diet, which may include solids and liquids, as well as a schedule for transitioning to a normal diet. You may also be asked to refrain from using tobacco products and avoid strenuous physical activity.

Pain following corrective jaw surgery is easily controlled with medication and patients are generally able to return to work or school from one to three weeks after surgery, depending on how they are feeling. While the initial healing phase is about six weeks, complete healing of the jaws takes between nine and 12 months.

A. Treatment Aims

The aim of the combined treatment is to restore structure and function, that is, stable and aesthetic. To this aim, the orthodontist uses braces to align the teeth to their jaws. Once this has been achieved, surgery is used to align the jaws and other facial components as is necessary. To achieve the treatment aims, a treatment plan is devised by the orthodontist and the oral and maxillofacial surgeon who will then co-ordinate the treatment plan with your family dentist and medical practitioner. On occasions, other health care specialists may be involved. Your treatment plan is based on your concept of the problem, the clinical assessment and the radiographic analysis.

The advantages and disadvantages of the treatment plan with any possible alternatives, as well as the duration of each stage will be explained to you. No treatment will commence until you have a full understanding of what is involved.

B. Treatment and the Sequence

There are four stages of treatment:

  • Treatment before orthodontics
  • Orthodontics before surgery
  • Surgical treatment
  • Treatment after surgery

This overall combined treatment takes an average of about 12-18 months to complete.

1. Treatment before orthodontics
This is usually carried out when the orthodontic treatment is about to be commenced. It could involve the removal of teeth, the exposure of teeth or soft tissue surgery. You will also definitely see your family dentist for preventative management and possibly fillings, whichever the case; you will be informed of what is required before braces are placed on your teeth.

2. Orthodontics before surgery
Orthodontic treatment means you will have to wear braces on your teeth for about 6-12 months before the surgery. The braces are used for the necessary alignment of the teeth as a preparation for jaw surgery. Further more, the braces are essential during and after surgery to help keep the teeth and jaws aligned.

3. Surgical Treatment
a. Preparatory Phase
Once the teeth are orthodontically aligned, the precise and final surgical treatment plan is made based upon further clinical and radiographic reassessment. Then the braces are slightly modified to aid the surgery. After this, impressions will be taken for the construction of splints, which will position the jaws into the predetermined position. The detailed surgical treatment will be explained to you, the duration of the hospital stay, and the stages of the recovery period. This will provide you with another opportunity to ask further questions and to obtain additional understanding of the surgical treatment so you will be able to give informed and signed consent.

b. Hospital Phase
The admission to the hospital and the anesthetic assessment is the same as for any other surgery. Usually you are admitted to the hospital the day before the operation. The first night after the operation is spent in intensive nursing, after this, you are returned to the wards for 1-2 days approximately.

4. Treatment after surgery
During this healing phase you will wear elastics on the braces for 3 months. Also during this phase the orthodontist will further adjust your teeth for about 3-6 months to align them to the new jaw position from the surgery. Once the braces are removed, you will wear a retainer for at least 12 months.

Your visits to the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon has the following sequence upon leaving the hospital; You will be seen weekly for 6 weeks and radiographic assessment will also be carried out on the first week and then in the 6th week after surgery. After which you will be assessed clinically and radiographically at 3 months, 6 months and thereafter yearly. The reason for this is to assess the healing and the stability of the operation. It should be noted that these are separate from your normal visits to your family dentist and your orthodontist.

After Effects from the Surgery

1. Psychological Aspects
It is not unusual to become depressed after any surgery but especially so with facial surgery. The duration and intensity varies and usually passes as you recover from the surgery and your condition improves.

2. Pain
Pain is usually not a major factor with most patients that have had this type of operation. Obviously there is going to be considerable variation in pain response with patients and it depends on their perception and psychological state at the time of the operation.

3. Swelling
Facial swelling reaches a peak within 36-48 hours after surgery. The swelling does not begin to decrease until about 1 week after surgery & will take 6-8 weeks before it has significantly disappeared.

4. Jaw Stabilization
Recent advances in jaw surgery mean that 99.5% of the types of operations do not require the jaws to be wired together. Instead, only light elastic bands are used to stabilize the jaws. This means that you can speak, swallow and drink soon after the operation with minimal problems. While chewing, has to be gradually built up over a period of time.
If your jaws have to be wired together, this will last for 4 weeks with an operation on the upper jaw, and 6 weeks if the lower or both jaws were operated on. This means that your speech could be more difficult, especially with telephone conversations. However with time, people adjust to drinking and taking in food with this situation.

5. Scarring
Most of this type of surgery is carried out inside the mouth, which means no obvious scars. Although in some cases where the lower jaw is being operated on very small incisions may be placed on both sides of the neck.

6. Soft tissue response to the surgery
This usually takes a significant period of time and varies markedly between individuals especially in the short term. The first 80% of return to the new structure and function occur within 1 month. The remaining 20% seem to be age related. In this way it is roughly 6 months and 1 extra month for each decade. For example, 9 months after surgery is required for a 30 year old person.

7. Nerve injury
It is common to have loss of sensation with orthognathic surgery especially when it involves the lower jaw. This means there is normal movement of the lips but there is a loss of lip awareness. Obviously, no one will realize you do not have feeling in the lips except for yourself. The return to sensation is a gradual process and is patchy but it is usually self-limiting. For example, in the young it can take 9 months and for the older patients it will take longer. Unfortunately a small percentage of people never have a return of sensation in areas of their lips.

Enjoy the Benefits

Corrective jaw surgery moves your teeth and jaws into positions that are more balanced, functional and healthy. Although the goal of this surgery is to improve your bite and function, some patients also experience enhancements to their appearance and speech. The results of corrective jaw surgery can have a dramatic and positive effect on many aspects of your life. So make the most of the new you!

Maxillofacial Centre

Calle Real de Santa Ines # 9A
Antigua Guatemala
Cod. Postal 03001

Phone:       (502)  7832 6002
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