If you’ve never heard of orthognathic therapy, you are not the only one! Put more simply, orthognathic surgery can be thought of as jaw surgery. This type of surgery is intended to make adjustments to the relationship between the maxilla (upper jaw) or mandible (lower jaw) with the skeletal system with which it interfaces.
While many concerns around bite and function of the jaw are possible to correct using orthodontic appliances and treatments, there are limitations to the effectiveness of orthodontics when the structure of the jaw is not conducive to effective function.
What Can Orthognathic Surgery Achieve?
Many patients of orthognathic therapy suffer from symptoms such as difficulty chewing, uneven wear of teeth, sleep trouble including sleep apnea, as well as temporomandibular disorders (TMD/TMJ) that relate to jaw muscle pain and strain. Orthognathic surgery alleviates the symptoms by aiming to achieve an improved jaw and palate structure. It often facilitates ease of jaw function and comfort eating, speaking and sleeping.
Orthognathic surgery has been used to realign the jaw, correct skeletal deformities and even correct congenital conditions such as cleft palate. Other orthognathic surgeries may be required to remove wisdom teeth, or to remove impacted teeth.
Who Performs Orthognathic Surgery?
Orthognathic surgery is performed by a surgeon with the support of a multidisciplinary team. At bloom, we refer patients to orthognathic surgeons with class 2 or class 3 malocclusion with excellent results.
Class 2 malocclusion is also referred to as retrognathism and is a clinical name to describe overbite. Overbite occurs when the lower jaw is recessed, causing the upper teeth to overlap the lower teeth disproportionately. Class 3 malocclusion, or prognathism, refers to underbite in which the lower jaw protrudes forward beyond the upper front teeth. These conditions impact the function of the jaw, as well as the structural profile of the patient.
Together, the combined effort of our orthodontists with expert dental surgeons can produce impactful results to patients in terms of their comfort and their confidence. Depending upon the patient’s circumstances, other disciplines may be involved to compliment and encourage surgical success such as speech therapy or orofacial myology. This interdisciplinary team works together to offer our patients maximum support and education.
What Can I Expect?
Orthognathic surgery is typically offered in conjunction with an orthodontic treatment that can be completed in stages. Our orthodontists are skilled at assessing the needs of their patients as well as identifying developing concerns. Prior to undergoing orthognathic surgery, orthodontic treatment will be required and vary from 6 months to 18 months. Once orthognathic surgery is completed, orthodontic treatment will continue for a few more months until the orthodontist is ready to remove the brackets. For this reason, orthodontic treatment duration is typically 30 to 32 months when surgery is required.
Our patients will consult with the surgeon in order to discuss the particular details of the anticipated surgery and to inform patients of what to expect during recovery. Since orthognathic surgery requires general anesthetic, your surgery will be performed within a hospital environment. Following the surgery, a rest and recovery period of two weeks is encouraged before following up with your surgeon or orthodontist, as indicated by the surgeon.
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Tips for Effective Healing After Orthognathic Surgery
While our patients recover from orthognathic surgery, we recommend a diet that is liquid or easy to mash against the hard palate using the tongue. This minimizes the demands on the jaw and teeth while allowing patients to get adequate nutrition and hydration. We recommend eating soft foods such as puddings, soups, broth, Jell-O and cool drinks. It is important to follow the surgeon’s discharge orders and to ensure that you are complying with the use of any antibiotics or prescribed pain killers. In order to minimize swelling, cold packs may be placed on the outside of the mouth and jaw for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and cool drinks will assist in managing the inflammation inside the mouth.
Oral Hygiene After Orthognathic Surgery
One of the most important things to do after undergoing a surgery in the mouth is to maintain a low bacterial count to minimize the potential for the development of infections or of contributing to gum inflammation. For this reason, your specialist may recommend a particular method of cleaning the mouth in the days following surgery. As much as possible, we recommend brushing and flossing the teeth as normal as soon as possible while using a very gentle hand and avoiding areas with broken or tender tissues. Maintaining a clean mouth is important to increase the likelihood of effective healing as well as your overall comfort. If you are experiencing challenges maintaining your oral health, discussing this with a member of our dental team may be useful since special dental rinses or techniques can be discussed to help facilitate your oral hygiene routine.