Dentist showing x-ray footage of teeth to patient

When it’s time to fix issues with your jaw and teeth and get your new smile, you’ll want to set up an appointment with your orthodontist. But your orthodontist isn’t the only specialist involved in optimizing your jaw for better health. Different specialists will collaborate together to complete your treatment if you need more advanced corrective procedures, like orthognathic surgery. 

What Is Orthognathic Surgery?

Surgeries that correct issues with jaw shape and size are referred to as orthognathic surgery. These types of procedures are needed when there are severe irregularities in the jaw, resulting in bite problems, trouble with breathing and eating, or complications related to impacted teeth. 

This type of surgery is different from early orthodontic interventions, which can correct jaw shape with less intrusive treatment methods like palatal expanders. Orthognathic surgeries happen after jaw growth stops, which is around 14 to 16 years of age for females and 17 to 21 years of age for males. Early interventions are designed to significantly reduce the chances surgery will be needed in the future. 

After orthognathic surgery, the patient should experience improvements in breathing, eating, and speaking. The corrections in jaw orientation also improve daily comfort while reducing instances of headaches. Some sleep apnea patients show improvement after orthognathic surgery as well. For many people, the appearance of their face improves since their proportions will be more optimally balanced. 

Orthodontics and Orthognathic Surgery

Being that orthodontic treatment and orthognathic surgery both involve correcting the jaw, it only makes sense that your orthodontist would be involved in your orthognathic procedure. While an orthodontist doesn’t perform the actual surgery, they are an important part of the process. An orthodontist will play a major role in the diagnostic stage since they will be able to identify the severity of the jaw problems through x-rays. 

If they determine braces alone won’t be able to fix the issues with the jaw, the patient will be referred to an orthognathic surgeon. This is where the surgeon and orthodontist will need to collaborate to complete the patient’s treatment. Orthognathic surgery is typically preceded by a period with braces in order to better align the teeth. Because of this, the orthodontist will essentially plan the first stage of treatment. 

The initial stage of braces before surgery is often completed to make the surgery easier and to avoid new bite problems or complications immediately after the surgery. For instance, you wouldn’t want to do surgery to move the lower jaw forward if this new position would make it impossible to bite down. 

After the surgery is completed, the orthodontist will also still be needed. This last stage with braces will straighten the patient’s teeth, so the orthodontist will need to gather impressions and create a treatment plan. In some cases, patients will be able to use Invisalign at this stage since they already had some correction with braces before surgery. 

Here at Charleston Orthodontic Specialists, we do an assessment of your jaw and teeth to determine if you may need orthognathic surgery and can refer you to expert surgeons. Then, we’ll work with your surgeon to complete your treatment so you can experience improved comfort and a better smile.