Corrective jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, is a medical procedure to change the shape and structure of the jaw to address a physiological or aesthetic problem. This procedure must be performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, a dentist who has undergone extensive training in corrective jaw surgery and related topics. Patients usually also work with an orthodontist and a dentist in the course of treatment. It may take several years to successfully complete treatment for a jaw problem.
Patients may need corrective jaw surgery because of an issue that makes it difficult to talk, breathe, or chew. This could involve an overbite or underbite, or a misalignment of the jaws. Patients with sleep apnea could be candidates for corrective jaw surgery, as could patients with conditions like temporomandibular joint disorder. Sometimes patients with broken jaws need reconstructive surgery, and there can be other conditions that may lead a surgeon to recommend an orthognathic procedure.
Some patients request corrective jaw surgery because they are displeased with the structure of the jaw. This procedure is invasive and is usually only recommended to address issues like asymmetry, a strong protruding chin, a very weak chin, and similar issues. Sometimes transsexual patients request the procedure to feminize or masculinize the jaw if they are displeased with their facial appearance after several years of hormones.
It may be necessary to wear orthodontics before corrective jaw surgery, to start to pull the jaws and teeth into place. The patient may also need to wear them for several months or even years after surgery. In the planning process, the maxillofacial surgeon should discuss the level of commitment necessary to make sure the patient knows what to expect and will be ready for several years of healing. Other procedures are less extensive and may only take a few months to heal.
Surgical planning also includes taking x-rays, measuring the jaw, and documenting the patient's facial appearance. Some doctors have computer modeling programs they can use in surgical planning. This will help the surgeon during the procedure when it comes to removing excess bone, placing implants, and engaging in other activities to reshape the jaw.
Recovery from corrective jaw surgery can require several weeks of significant rest. The patient may need to be careful about eating during this period and could require speech therapy after recovery. Patients also usually need extensive pain management, as the procedure can involve some very painful adjustments to the jaw structure.