Sometimes traditional orthodontics such as braces aren’t enough to fully correct smiles. When a patient’s jaws don’t line up as they should and a proper bite can’t be achieved, oral surgery might be advised in addition to braces. Surgical orthodontics, or orthognathic surgery, is used to treat severe cases of jaw abnormalities in order to improve the ability to eat, speak and breathe as well as aid facial appearance.
Orthodontists may recommend surgical orthodontics for adult patients who have completed jaw growth, usually between ages 16 and 18. All jaw growth must be completed before surgery will be considered. However, traditional braces or Invisalign clear plastic aligners will likely be started one to two years prior to surgery. Since moving the jaw also involves moving the teeth, braces and surgery are always used together to complete treatment.
During the period of wearing braces, normal adjustments or changes in the series of Invisalign aligners will occur. Teeth will move with treatment, although the bite and jaw alignment may not be able to correct. Once orthognathic surgery is performed, the teeth and jaw will then align properly. The orthodontist and oral surgeon will work closely together to ensure success.
An oral surgeon performs the procedure, which may take several hours, in a hospital. The lower jaw, the upper jaw, or both may receive correction. Bone might be added or removed to help with alignment and stability, and other facial bones may even be repositioned. Recovery from surgery takes up to two weeks, and then the orthodontist will use the braces to finalize the bite and teeth positioning. Orthodontic treatment is usually complete within 6 to 12 months after surgery, and then a retainer will be worn to protect the smile.
Patients who undergo orthognathic surgery in additional to braces may feel like it’s been a long road, but the results are a beautiful smile and facial appearance that likely wouldn’t have been possible without surgery. This form of treatment may seem extreme, but it can improve patients’ lives in many ways.