Jaw Surgery

The jaw is a highly complex joint, and any number of factors can contribute to its misalignment. A malocclusion negatively affects the appearance and function of the jaw, and corrective jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, can address these deficits.

Orthognathic surgery is often more involved, time-consuming, and complex than other oral surgery procedures, so it’s important to be prepared for all aspects of the treatment process and give yourself sufficient time to heal.

If jaw surgery has been recommended in your case, we encourage you to schedule an evaluation at our office. We will thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your treatment options.

When is jaw surgery needed?

Corrective jaw surgery may be indicated whenever a patient’s jaws don’t fit together properly and the situation cannot be addressed through orthodontic interventions alone. Such malocclusions may include:

  • Crossbites
  • Underbites
  • Overbites
  • Open bites
Woman holding her jaw

These conditions can result from incorrect development of the jaw while the facial structures are still growing. For example, the jaws may grow at different rates, resulting in their misalignment. Orthognathic surgery may target either the upper or lower jaw or both.

Additionally, patients may need corrective jaw surgery due to:

  • Damage from facial injuries
  • TMJ disorders
  • Issues with breathing, speaking or chewing properly

Depending on the circumstances of your case, Drs. Ibanez and Hill may collaborate with other types of specialists on the overall treatment plan. For example, many patients will undergo jaw surgery in conjunction with orthodontic treatment, so we would work closely with that provider.

What To Expect From Jaw Surgery

Because jaw surgery can be so complex in some cases, it’s helpful to know what to expect from every step of the treatment process. In fact, we view patient education as a key component of preparing for jaw surgery for that reason.

We will thoroughly explain our treatment approach and goals at your consultation, and we can even leverage our practice’s advanced imaging technology to give you a realistic image of the results you can expect from the procedure.

Some types of jaw surgery can take several hours, so we will try to give you an estimate of how long the procedure will take. Additionally, it may be preferable to perform some types of orthognathic surgery in a hospital setting, and some patients may remain in the hospital for an observation period afterward.

On the day of the jaw surgery, we will administer local anesthetic and sedation so that you can remain comfortable throughout the procedure. We will advise you of all steps necessary to prepare for intravenous sedation.

Healing After Jaw Surgery

Much of the guidance for post-operative self-care following jaw surgery is similar to that of other oral surgery procedures. For example, we will give you instructions to:

  • Prevent infection
  • Avoid disrupting any sutures at the surgical site
  • Modify your diet to accommodate healing
  • Manage discomfort

However, the recovery period is typically longer following jaw surgery than for other treatments like tooth extractions or dental implant placement. Patients may be off of work for at least 7-10 days and face activity restrictions for several weeks. We’ll review this aspect of your treatment with you in advance of your surgery.

Be sure to follow all post-operative instructions and don’t overextend yourself too early in your recovery, as doing so can actually result in a longer treatment timeline.

Common Jaw Surgery Questions

Is jaw surgery a major surgery?

Jaw surgery is a blanket term covering many different procedures, some of which can be quite complex. The procedure may address defects or misalignment in the upper or lower jaw or both, with full jaw reconstruction the most significant type of procedure. Nonetheless, many jaw surgery procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis. We can give you more information about all aspects of your proposed jaw surgery, including how to prepare for the procedure and what to expect afterward, after evaluating your case.

How long does it take to recover from jaw surgery?

The extent of your jaw surgery will influence the anticipated length of your recovery. Generally speaking, the recovery following jaw surgery takes more time than healing from other types of oral surgery procedures. Patients may need to be off of work for a week or more, depending on the circumstances of their case. At your initial evaluation, we will thoroughly inform you about all aspects of your treatment, including what your anticipated recovery will look like. As with all oral surgery procedures, you must adhere to all post-operative instructions to reduce the likelihood of any infections or other complications that could interfere with the healing process.

Will jaw surgery change my face?

Malocclusions and other jaw deformities that are targeted in jaw surgery can negatively impact facial aesthetics, so jaw surgery can change the face’s appearance, but it is often for the better. When complemented by realigning the teeth, jaw surgery can greatly enhance a patient’s smile. In many cases, an oral surgeon will collaborate with another specialist, such as an orthodontist, to achieve the overall desired smile and facial aesthetics.

Why do patients need jaw surgery?

Any number of issues can result in misalignment of the jaw, including uneven or irregular jaw development, congenital defects, or facial trauma. Jaw surgery can help to correct any of these problems and many other concerns. Jaw surgery may also be indicated to relieve certain symptoms, such as the pain associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders or to make the jaw more effective in its role in chewing, speaking, and even breathing properly.