Orthognathic Surgery Overview

Orthognathic surgery is surgery to correct conditions of the jaw and face that cannot be treated with braces alone. The affected bones are cut and re-aligned, then held in place with either screws or plates and screws.

The surgery can be performed on the mandible (lower jaw) and/or maxilla (upper jaw) depending on what corrections are desired. General anesthesia is commonly used for this procedure. Often times this surgery does not require the skin to be cut, but instead the surgeon accesses the bones through the patient's mouth.

During the surgery the jaws will be wired together (inter-maxillary fixation) using stainless steel wires to insure the correct re-positioning of the bones. Sometimes this is released before the patient wakes up. Some surgeons prefer to wire the jaws shut.

Orthognathic surgery is usually performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in collaboration with an orthodontist. It often includes braces before and after surgery. Careful coordination between the surgeon and orthodontist is essential to ensure that the teeth will fit correctly after the surgery.

Due to the nature of the surgery patients are usually put on an all-liquid diet after the procedure. Once the surgeon gives the ok some soft food can be introduced, and then hard food. Following the diet guidelines given by the surgeon is very important after the surgery, so as to not interrupt the healing process. Healing time can range from a few weeks for minor surgery, to up to a year for more complicated surgery.

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