Surgical Orthodontics FAQs

Content Provided By Dr. Scott Ralph

Published On: Feb 17 2012 01:08:28 PM PST   Updated On: Feb 17 2012 01:08:56 PM PST

Surgical Orthodontics Frequently Asked Questions

Surgical orthodontics, also known as orthognathic surgery, consists of a combination of orthodontic treatment (usually braces) and jaw surgery. This combination is often employed in cases of jaw problems – including bad bites and jawbone abnormalities – that are too severe to be solved by orthodontics alone.

What are the benefits of surgical orthodontics?

Depending on the particular jaw problem, patients can be relieved of biting and chewing difficulties, as well as breathing difficulties and sleep apnea. The treatment is used to improve both “gummy smiles” in which an excess of gums show above the teeth, and “toothless smiles” in which the lips cover the teeth. For patients with overbite, underbite, cleft palate, or facial injuries, the balance of the face is restored.

Who is a candidate for surgical orthodontics?

While the initial stage of orthodontic treatment may begin earlier, this type of jaw surgery is only appropriate in adults who have stopped growing. This group generally includes females 16 and older and males 18 and older. In younger patients, early intervention can often correct jaw problems and eliminate the need for future surgery.

What results can be expected?

When surgical orthodontic treatment is complete, overall dental health is improved, since a bad bite is eliminated and jaws are aligned properly. The treatment also results in a more stable, functional and healthy placement of the jaw. Patients enjoy easier speaking, breathing and eating. Frequently facial appearance is improved as well. Because surgical orthodontics is only employed in response to a significant problem, the improvement can be dramatic and have lasting positive effects.

What does the process include?

The process begins with orthodontic treatment. We'll use braces to move your teeth into the correct position prior to surgery. During this time, it may seem as if your bite is getting worse; this is because the jaws are still out of place. After the jaws are moved during surgery, you'll find your teeth fitting together better. Once surgery is complete, we will continue the orthodontic treatment to move all of your teeth into their final positions.

What happens during surgery?

The strategy varies according to the patient’s need. If the lower jaw is the source of the problem, it will be moved forward or backward. If the upper jaw is the issue, it can be moved forward, backward, up or down. In some cases bone will be removed or added to achieve the correct alignment and stability.

Are there any risks involved?

Surgical orthodontic procedures are performed routinely and carry only the usual risks associated with any type of surgery.

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