Sometimes when teeth don’t meet up right, it’s not because the teeth are crooked, it’s because the upper and lower jaw are misaligned. This misalignment can result in a person having an underbite, overbite or crossbite. All three of these conditions can cause someone to be self-conscious about the way they look or even cause physical issues like headaches, jaw pain and uneven wear on teeth. Jaw surgery can prevent these issues from occurring when related to the jaws, making the patient more comfortable both mentally and physically. Up to 15% of orthodontic patients could benefit from some type of jaw surgery.
In the past, having jaw surgery required wiring the patient’s upper and lower teeth together until the jaws healed. This is no longer the case. Major advancements have been made in this process. Now braces are used as an anchor during the surgery and recovery.
How Braces Are Used During Jaw Surgery
- Before surgery – Before jaw surgery is done, it’s important to determine exactly how much of the misalignment is being caused by the teeth versus the jaws. To accomplish this, an orthodontist will use braces to align the teeth before surgery. After the teeth are where they need to be, the oral surgeon can properly place the jaws.
- During surgery – Instead of wiring the patient’s jaw shut immediately after surgery, the oral surgeon will attach several small elastic bands to the braces to keep the jaw in place while it is healing.
- After surgery – Braces will stay in place until the jaw is completely healed and the teeth are in their final positions within the jaws. Once the braces are removed, the patient will need to wear a retainer to keep their teeth in their new positions, just like a patient who had braces without jaw surgery.
What to Expect with Jaw Surgery
If you are a candidate for jaw surgery, your orthodontist and oral surgeon will work together to determine the proper treatment for your particular situation. After your initial treatment with braces, the oral surgeon will review the x-rays from your orthodontist and put together a surgical plan. The jaw surgery will be performed with you under anesthesia to keep you from involuntarily moving or experiencing discomfort during the procedure. Metal screws and small plates will be inserted during the surgery and will not be removed.
You will likely stay in the hospital for one or two days after the surgery. When you are released, you will be given medication to help with any discomfort, although most patients experience numbness rather than pain. You will continue to see your oral surgeon and orthodontist for regular checkups during your recovery to ensure everything is healing properly.
Even after your jaws are healed, which may take a few months, your orthodontist will recommend leaving your braces on to correct any minor issues that remain before removing them and fitting you for a retainer.
The best way to determine whether or not you need jaw surgery is to see an orthodontist who has experience with these types of cases. They can discuss treatment options with you and refer you to an oral surgeon. If you have teeth that aren’t aligned, schedule a free exam with Dr. Savastano at (843) 4-BRACES to see what type of treatment is right for you.