What is Orthognathic Surgery?

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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Surgery designed to correct and realign the jaw and face in order to correct a number of negative side effects is known as orthognathic surgery. There are many different types of problems that can occur because of misalignment of the jaws, face and teeth. Because of the unpredictability of deformities and the many types that can occur, orthognathic surgery may require doctors to find new and different ways to fix rare problems. The goal of the surgery is for the jaw, face and teeth to work properly with no side effects, and also may be done purely for cosmetic issues.

An oral surgeon can usually recognize when anomalies and deformities occur with the face and jaw, if they are not already obvious. The doctor may also recognize some of the risks associated with leaving problems untreated. Many times, orthognathic surgery is also done while correcting problems that occur regarding misalignment of teeth. Many of the primary issues that will require surgery are facial misalignments that result in overbites and underbites, and cannot be solved by braces alone. Other issues which can be fixed after orthognathic surgery are problems with speech, muscle pain, headaches, jaw pain, and more, and all of these problems can have an adverse effect on the digestive system.


A person who believes that he or she will need this type of surgery will usually consult an orthodontist or an oral maxillofacial surgeon, who can determine the problems and decide which bones need to be repositioned. Very minor types of surgery can be done in the doctor’s office, but most of the time the procedures are done at a hospital under heavy anesthesia. During orthognathic surgery, the surgeon will make incisions in the mouth of the sleeping patient in order to expose the bones that must be corrected. Once this is done, the proper corrections are made by cutting the bones, realigning them, and reattaching them with screws.

Of course there are many different deformities that can occur, and often the surgeon will need to be innovative in order to achieve the right results. One of the more common types of orthognathic surgery is genioplasty, which is realigning the chin in the proper corrective direction. Another is referred to as sagittal split osteotomy, where the lower jaw is repositioned backward or forward in order to correct an associated problem. Finally, Le Fort I osteotomy is the type of surgery that involves the repositioning of the upper jaw, and is used to correct overbites, underbites, open bites and other cosmetic facial deformities.


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