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What Is a Mandibular Osteotomy?

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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Mandibular osteotomy is a surgical procedure performed to realign the jawbone, or mandible. Though a number of reasons make mandibular osteotomy necessary, the two most common are a broken mandible and congenital mandible deformations that are either cosmetically unappealing or affect the functions of eating and/or speaking. To avoid unsightly facial scars, the operation is done primarily done through incisions within the mouth; small incisions done on the face to insert pins are not uncommon, though. After a healing process that lasts a few weeks, the jaw is permanently aligned and the patient can live a more normal life.

A broken or malformed mandible are the two main reasons individuals require a mandibular osteotomy. The latter case is more common. A patient with a malformed jaw may notice difficulty eating or speaking. Though rarely life-threatening, these symptoms along with a possible physical deformation is a factor in the decision to have corrective surgery. In other cases, surgery is recommended by a dentist or orthodontist who notices a misalignment of a patient's teeth.

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Though elective surgery, a mandibular osteotomy requires hospitalization before the procedure. After the patient is under anesthesia, a surgeon makes cuts into the gums to expose the mandible. The surgeon uses a saw to cut the mandible in a controlled break. Only with a broken jaw can the surgeon correctly align it to the skull. After alignment, a series of pins and plates keep the mandible in place. The operation ends when the surgeon stitches up the gums with thread that dissolves a few weeks after surgery.

After a mandibular osteotomy, a patient recovers in the hospital for one to two days before returning home. Post-operative x-rays confirm whether or not the surgery was successful. Recovery can be somewhat painful, and the patient will not be able to eat solid food for some time. Prescription painkillers may be necessary for the first few days after surgery. Talking and moving the jaw may be difficult from a few days to a few weeks.

When a patient returns home, post-operative recovery becomes his or her responsibility. As the gums heal, regular antibiotic rinses may be necessary to prevent infection. Even then, it is not uncommon for patients to experience some bleeding. Though the time varies among patients, one must abstain from work for two to three weeks. Excessive talking or any activity that moves the jaw can complicate and/or extend one's recovery time.

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