Orthognathic surgery refers to “straightening of the jaw(s) using surgery” (ortho-straight, gnathic-of or relating to the jaw(s)). Whereas orthodontic treatment corrects the position of the teeth, orthognathic surgery positions the bones of the jaws. When the upper and lower jaw (maxilla/mandible) aren’t properly aligned or teeth don’t seem to fit correctly with the jaws, problems can arise, including issues with speech, breathing difficulty, eating difficulty, a protruding jaw and teeth that don’t meet in the front. Orthognathic surgery resolves these issues to promote optimal jaw function and comfort.

One or both jaws may be surgically repositioned during one operation. This involves making cuts in the bones and moving the cut segments into their predetermined position, in the hospital, under general anesthesia. Surgery is normally preceded by a period of orthodontic treatment so that post-operatively both the teeth and the bones will be in their correct position. Finally, a period of orthodontic treatment is usually required to complete the alignment of the teeth.

Jaw problems can exist from birth or can arise from injury, heredity, environmental influences, or uneven growth in the lower and upper jaws. Your surgeon will perform a comprehensive examination to assess your jaw, including any necessary x-rays, photos and models. He’ll confer with your orthodontist, as well, to determine the optimal solution for your unique situation. The doctor will explain the recommended surgical treatment and answer all of your questions.

A positive approach is extremely important both before and after surgery, as positive thinking can assist the body during the process of healing.

Following are some of the conditions that may indicate the need for corrective jaw surgery:

  • Difficulty chewing, or biting food
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic jaw or jaw joint (TMJ) pain and headache
  • Excessive wear of the teeth
  • Open bite (space between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed)
  • Unbalanced facial appearance from the front, or side
  • Facial injury
  • Birth defects
  • Receding lower jaw and chin
  • Protruding jaw
  • Inability to make the lips meet without straining
  • Chronic mouth breathing
  • Sleep apnea (breathing problems when sleeping, including snoring)