Why Have Corrective Jaw Surgery: The Procedure and Tips for Recovery

There are several reasons to receive corrective jaw surgery, and it’s an operation designed to correct an array of conditions. For this reason, the Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons outlines the procedure as this: “Corrective jaw, or orthognathic, surgery is performed by Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons to correct a wide range of minor and major skeletal and dental irregularities, including the misalignment of jaws and teeth, which, in turn, can improve chewing, speaking and breathing.” The operation, of course, results in alterations to the patient’s physical appearance, but it’s important to make this distinction—corrective jaw surgery is not intended as purely cosmetic.

You’re likely a strong candidate for corrective jaw surgery if:

  • You have difficulties chewing, biting or swallowing
  • You suffer from TMJ
  • You’ve experienced impairing facial trauma
  • You struggle with sleep apnea
  • You have any number of common jaw deformities, such as an open bite or a protruding or receding lower jaw

These are just a few of the conditions that corrective jaw surgery can correct.

You will work with your dentist, orthodontist and/or oral surgeon to ensure that the procedure, which is invasive, is necessary to correct your condition. In addition to being healthy overall, a good candidate will be educated and enter into the operation with proper expectations. Corrective jaw surgery is not a fast solution, it is a procedure that, for many patients, takes at least a year to fully recover from, if not more. Follow up visits are numerous and necessary during the healing process.

An informed, educated patient understands how corrective jaw surgery is performed and what the process entails.

Prior to moving the jaw bone, the teeth must be adjusted. Orthodontic care before the operation ensures that your teeth are properly located and fit together following the surgery. During the actual operation, your surgeon will readjust the bone placement, and he or she may need to add, shape or remove pieces of the jaw based on your specific needs. Some patients require additions of screws, plates or types of bands to hold the new configuration together. However, many corrective jaw surgeries can be done through incisions on the inside, as opposed to the outside of the mouth. This greatly reduces, if not totally eliminates, visible scarring from the procedure.

The immediate recovery period following the surgery lasts approximately six weeks, says AAOMS, but full recovery—including follow-up visits and orthodontic care—lasts between nine and twelve months. It’s possible that it can take longer, depending on the operation.
To begin healing as soon as possible, patients change their diets immediately following the surgery, consuming liquids and foods that require little to no jaw movement. Pain management medications will be prescribed, along with instructions for keeping the head elevated; reducing swelling with cold compresses and ice; and getting plenty of water and rest. Because each operation is different, it’s imperative that you follow your doctor’s specific post-operative instructions.

Once you’re 100% healed you can look forward to having a more natural, easily functioning and balanced face and jaw. Better breathing; more ease with chewing and swallowing; the ability to close the mouth property…all of these are the benefits you could see following corrective jaw surgery.