Jaw reconstruction, otherwise known as orthognathic surgery, is a method to correct or adjustment to any form of jaw irregularities. Many times, problems with the bite or the alignment of the teeth can be corrected using jaw corrective methods of dental and orthodontic treatment. This is a specialized way to correct any defects of the jaw relating to the structure. There are several ways through which these defects can occur; automobile accidents being the most common. Jaw reconstruction is a process used to correct jaw problems such as: open bites, difficulty chewing, difficulty swallowing, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder pains, excessive wear of the teeth in the jaw, and receding chins. It can also be used to take care of severe orthodontic problems involving the relationship between the teeth and the jaws, including the correction of under-bites and congenital defects related to jaw development. It can also help alleviate sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition.

The Benefits of the Jaw Reconstruction

People that have problems related to the jaw, tooth alignment and facial asymmetry, may have difficulties chewing, talking, sleeping, and may benefit from having orthognathic surgery. These procedures can also be used to correct aesthetic issues, such as a protruding jaw or an unbalanced facial appearance. The use of orthodontic devices like retainers are often the best way to ensure you have a successful outcome.

Conditions that can be treated with corrective orthognathic, jaw surgery include the following:

  • Open bite, protruding jaw or receding chin
  • Congenital defects such as the cleft palate
  • Malocclusion resulting from under-bites or severe overbites
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, when conservative methods fail
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing or biting food
  • Chronic jaw and jaw point pain and headache
  • An unbalanced appearance from the front or side
  • Inability to make the lips meet without straining
  • Chronic mouth breathing and dry mouth

The Importance of Jaw Reconstruction

Jaw reconstruction is crucial to make adjustment and corrections to many dental issues such as:

  • Severe jaw alignment problems (front and back, vertical, and transverse alignment)
  • Skeletofacial discrepancies associated with documented sleep apnea, airway defects, and soft tissue discrepancies
  • Skeletofacial irregularities with documented TMJ pathology

Jaw Reconstruction Procedure

There are different cases, conditions and problems regarding jaw reconstruction and every patient’s needs are different. The first and the most essential component is a consultation with the restorative or general dentist, an orthodontist, and an oral surgeon. The surgery may occur in a hospital or an equipped dental office setting, with the type of anesthesia that’s most appropriate for the process, and for your comfort. Because the actual surgery is generally performed in the mouth, it often leaves no visible scars. After the procedure, most general pain and swelling can be controlled by prescription medication. Soft foods and liquids are advised following the procedure.

Jaw Reconstruction Techniques

In jaw surgery, cutting one bone is known as an osteotomy while the medical procedure on both the upper and lower jaws is known as a bi-maxillary osteotomy, or a maxillomandibular headway. It is optimal to perform the surgery after development has stopped, usually around age 13-15 for females and 16-18 for males. Bone plates and screws are used to secure the jaw’s new position, and in some cases a bone graft will be needed. Bone can be transferred from your leg, hip, or rib and placed with temporary wires.

Method and Treatment

Orthodontic treatment may be needed before and after jaw surgery, and the whole process can take several years to complete. Comprehensive facial x-rays and computer imaging is used to plan the procedure and show you how your bite will be improved after the whole process. When you understand the method and benefits it is much easier to make the commitment to complete the treatment. The surgery will require general anesthesia and an outpatient hospital stay of 1 to 5 hours. Your jaw will be wired shut during recovery and you will need to take about 8 weeks off from any activities that could pose a risk of facial trauma.

Although orthognathic surgery is mainly used to correct functional problems, it can also dramatically enhance your appearance and improve your quality of life. New technology now provides the tools and techniques needed to reduce recovery time and maximize results. It can help improve your ability to chew, speak, and breathe, as well as restore self-confidence.

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Mark Schlaefer, DDS Michael Schlaefer, DDS
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