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For many people, correcting misaligned teeth means wearing braces for a time. Some people may need minor dental procedures, like tooth extractions, to correct their bite and straighten their teeth, but for the majority, the process is mostly noninvasive.
For those who have significant irregularities in their jaws, though, corrective jaw surgery may be recommended as part of the overall orthodontic treatment plan. Jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, may be necessary to reposition the upper or lower jaw to improve the way the bones and teeth work.
The experienced team of oral and maxillofacial surgeons at North Carolina Specialty Hospital works closely with orthodontists and other health-care providers to perform corrective jaw surgery in a patient-centered environment focused on providing high-quality, personalized care. We use the latest technology and surgical approaches to correct and restore jaw function in patients of all ages.
Because the prospect of jaw surgery, like any surgical procedure, can be daunting, we’ve compiled answers to some of the most common patient questions. Your NCSH surgeon will walk you through your specific surgery, but the following information can give you a better idea of what to expect.
Jaw surgery is a major operation. While the actual procedure itself can be completed in a few hours, it’s often a part of a more involved treatment that requires wearing braces both before and after the surgery. In some cases, the full treatment for a misaligned jaw can take up to two to three years.
While some people need corrective jaw surgery to restore the jaw’s function and appearance after an accident or injury, or to correct defects that were present at birth, it’s more common to undergo a procedure for dental reasons.
A misaligned jaw can be very painful, make eating and speaking difficult, and cause serious dental issues. Without proper alignment, your upper and lower teeth may not come together as they should for proper chewing, which can damage teeth. It’s common for people with jaw issues to have unusual or uneven wear patterns on their teeth, and they are at a greater risk for broken or cracked teeth. In some cases, these issues lead to tooth loss.
Another issue common among patients with misaligned jaws is sleep apnea or breathing problems. Correcting the alignment can help improve their breathing, which benefits their overall health and well-being.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform three types of jaw surgery:
Corrective jaw surgery is performed under general anesthesia, and it usually requires a hospital stay for several days. In most cases, the procedure is done inside your mouth, so there is no facial scarring.
To make the corrections to your jaw, the surgeon cuts the bone and moves it into the correct position. It will be held in place using rubber bands, screws, wires, and bone plates. The screws are designed to integrate with your jaw, becoming a permanent part of your bone structure.
Sometimes, the surgeon will add bone that’s been taken from your leg, hip, or rib to expand the jaw. It’s also common for the jaw bones to be reshaped.
After the jaw is corrected, the surgeon will place a plastic splint in your mouth to aid your recovery. Your mouth muscles will need to be retrained to work with the new jaw position. Expect to wear the splint for up to eight weeks after surgery.
Every patient and surgery is different, so everyone has their own recovery experience. In general, recovery from corrective jaw surgery is extensive and takes several weeks. The initial recovery and healing usually requires up to six weeks, after which you will have braces put on if needed. Depending on the positioning of your teeth, you may need to wear braces for up to a year.
During your recovery from jaw surgery, you’ll have a limited diet of soft foods—or even an all-liquid diet—for several weeks or months. It may also be difficult for you to talk, especially while you have the splint in place. Good oral hygiene habits, as well as avoiding tobacco and strenuous activity, are important to proper healing and avoiding infection.
The oral and maxillofacial surgeons at North Carolina Specialty Hospital are some of the most accomplished professionals in the Southeastern United States, and patients from the Raleigh-Durham area and beyond rely on them for exceptional care.
Choosing to have jaw surgery is a big decision, but it is one that can transform your health and your appearance. If you want to discuss your options, make an appointment with one of NCSH’s oral and maxillofacial surgeons today.
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