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Orthognathic (Jaw) Surgery

Orthognathic surgery literally means ‘jaw straightening’. This surgery is used to correct problems of the jaws that cause the teeth not to fit together well. Either jaw may be causing the problem, or both. For instance, the upper jaw may be small and set back, or the lower jaw may be sticking out to far, or both at the same time. If this is the case the teeth will not meet correctly, and in this case would be called an ‘underbite’. A common deformity occurs when the upper jaw is to long. In this condition the patient shows a ‘gummy smile’. This is corrected with an upper jaw surgery to ‘impact’ or shorten the upper jaw. Another common problem is the open bite deformity. This is where the upper and lower teeth do not come together in front. It is often the result of long term tongue thrust or thumb sucking. It is usually corrected with an upper jaw surgery.

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These are examples of problems that cannot be corrected by the orthodontist. The orthodontist can correctly align the teeth in the jaws, but cannot correctly align the jaws. The orthodontist is essential to jaw straightening surgery as the teeth need to be correctly aligned within the jaws prior to the surgery. Orthognathic surgery not only improves facial appearance, but also ensures that teeth meet correctly and function properly.

Who Needs Orthognathic Surgery?

People who can benefit from orthognathic surgery include those with an improper bite or jaws that are positioned incorrectly. Jaw growth is a gradual process and in some instances, the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. The result can be a host of problems that can affect chewing function, speech, long-term oral health and appearance. Injury to the jaw and birth defects can also affect jaw alignment and growth. Orthodontics alone can correct bite problems when only the teeth are involved and not the jaw bones. Orthognathic surgery may be required when repositioning of the jaws in necessary.

Patients with jaw problems that could benefit from orthognathic surgery often have problems such as:

  • difficulty in chewing, biting or swallowing
  • speech problems
  • chronic jaw joint or TMJ pain
  • open bite
  • protruding jaw
  • breathing problems
  • lips that strain to come together
  • lips that come together abnormally and stick out

Any of these symptoms can exist at birth, be acquired after birth as a result of hereditary or environmental influences or as a result of trauma to the face. Before any treatment begins, a consultation will be held to perform a complete examination with x-rays and occasionally photos. During the pre-treatment consultation process, feel free to ask any questions that you have regarding your treatment. When you are fully informed about the aspects of your care, you and your dental team will make the decision to proceed with treatment together.

 

Orthognathic Surgery Analysis

skull2In order to diagnose problems of the jaws that could require surgery, Dr. Gorab, Marsh and Scoggins complete a comprehensive examination. Photographs, x-rays, a bite registration, clinical measurements and impressions of your teeth will be taken. Computer analysis of a cephalometric radiograph will then be used to more accurately diagnose where the problem exists, and the probable methods of correction. The impressions of your teeth will be used to determine your new bite, and to replicate the planned surgery in all 3 dimensions.
If it is determined that you can be helped by corrective jaw surgery, Drs. Gorab, Marsh and Scoggins will work closely with your dentist and orthodontist during your treatment. The actual surgery moves your teeth and jaws into a new position that results in a more attractive, functional and healthy dental-facial relationship.