jaw surgery at ncofsc san diegoIf your jaws are positioned incorrectly or you’re suffering from an improper bite that routine orthodontic treatment has not or will not fix, you may be a candidate for orthognathic surgery. Orthognathic surgery refers to the surgical correction needed to fix substantial abnormalities of the maxilla (upper jaw), the mandible (lower jaw), or both.

Jaw growth is a gradual process and in some instances the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. The result can be a host of problems that can affect chewing function, speech, long-term oral health and appearance. The abnormality may be caused by a birth defect, a growth defect or the result of traumatic injuries to the jaw area.

Orthognathic surgeries include the reconstruction of the mandible or maxilla, mandibular ramus, maxillary osteotomy, and mandibular osteotomy.

Classifications of malocclusion (the improper coming together of teeth)

Class I Occlusion –This malocclusion means that the lower anterior incisors sit directly behind the upper anterior incisors when the patient bites down. This is considered less destructive than Class II and Class III malocclusions.

Class II Malocclusion – This is identified when the lower anterior incisors lie significantly behind the upper anterior incisors during the biting process; in some cases hitting the soft tissue behind the upper incisors. This is commonly referred to as an overbite and can cause discomfort, bone damage, excessive wear of the front teeth, and tooth loss.

Class III Malocclusion – This is commonly known as an underbite and occurs when the lower anterior incisors and lower jaw are positioned beyond the upper teeth, making the lower jaw much more prominent than the upper jaw.

Long-term effects of malocclusion

Malocclusion of the teeth can create greatly destructive forces among the five powerful muscles that control the closing and opening of the jaw. These muscles generate a tremendous force when clenching, grinding or chewing. Misalignment can seriously damage the function and aesthetic appearance of the teeth in many ways if left untreated, such as:

  • Tooth Wear – In the case of an overbite, the pressure and wear on the teeth is not spread evenly. This can also lead to TMJ, migraine headaches, and tooth loss.
  • Chronic Jaw, Muscle Pain & Headache – The misalignment of the teeth alters the way the facial muscles interact. In some cases, the meniscus cartilage which acts as a buffer between the jawbones can be painfully damaged.
  • Loose Teeth – When uneven pressure is continually exerted in unintended places or soft tissue is damaged by an overbite, adjacent teeth may become loose in their sockets which causes pain and reduces proper function.
  • Tooth Sensitivity – As teeth become damaged by constant use, the enamel becomes thinner and the nerves are less protected. This lack of protection can lead to sharp pains when hot or cold foods are eaten.
  • Difficulty Swallowing, Chewing, or Biting Food – Each can be associated with muscle pain and/or poor alignment of the upper and lower jaws.

The Orthognathic surgery process

If your orthodontist has identified you as a candidate for Orthognathic surgery, he or she will take a complete photographic analysis to demonstrate your condition before referring you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. This includes panorex x-rays, cephalometric x-rays, models and impressions. We will then work together with your orthodontist to consider how the corrective surgery will impact both proper jaw function and the aesthetic appearance of the entire face.

Generally, orthodontic braces are necessary to align the arches and straighten the teeth prior to and after the surgery. During maxillary surgery, the upper jaw is surgically moved into correct alignment and may be secured in position using tiny plates, wires, rubber bands and screws. Surgery on the mandible is performed to align the lower jaw into the correct position.

Orthognathic surgery requires a general anesthesia and can be performed safely as an outpatient procedure in our accredited surgery center. We will prescribe pain medication, as necessary, and give you post operative advice for your recovery. We may also recommend and provide you with a modified soft liquid diet for a short period of time.

Are you in need of jaw surgery or do you have any questions about jaw surgery / bite correction? Make your appointment today with our highly credentialed oral and maxillofacial surgeons.