Online Dental Education Library
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What is surgical orthodontics?
Surgical orthodontics is more commonly known as orthognathic surgery. Surgical orthodontics is usually carried out to improve jaw alignment and bite disorders. This surgery requires the teamwork of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and an orthodontist. A patient benefits from surgical orthodontics in multiple ways. The surgery helps in improving a patient’s speaking, chewing, and breathing capabilities. It also greatly improves a patient's facial appearance.
Who needs surgical orthodontics?
Adult patients with improper bites and facial aesthetic concerns who have reached physical maturity are candidates for orthognathic surgery. Jaw growth is typically completed by age 16 in females and age 18 in males. It is essential that jaw growth is completed before orthognathic surgery is performed. Pre-surgical tooth movements do not require the condition of full growth of the jaw and can start one to two years earlier.
How does surgical orthodontics work?
In certain cases, treatment with braces may actually worsen the bite instead of correcting the alignment. A patient may visit the orthodontist for routine adjustments during orthodontic treatment. As the braces move the teeth, the bite is observed to be getting worse and the treatment is not proving to be effective. The orthodontist may then decide to recommend orthognathic surgery. Orthognathic surgery places the jaws into proper alignment, which results in the teeth fitting properly into the correct position. The surgery may take several hours. The time required for surgery depends on the condition of the patient. Orthognathic surgery is performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
The surgery of the lower jaw requires the separation of the jawbone behind the teeth and moving the tooth-bearing portion of the jawbone forward or backward as required. In surgery of the upper jaw, the jaw can be raised, repositioned or lowered forward or backward. Some movements may need the jaws to be separated and addition or removal of bones to attain stability and proper alignment. Facial bones that help in the alignment can also be repositioned or augmented.
The recovery period of orthodontic surgery is about two weeks, and the patient will be able to return to school or work after this time period. The surgery will take between 4 and 8 weeks to completely heal. Minor adjustments will be required to be made to the patient’s bite by the orthodontist after the surgery. The removal of braces is usually carried out 6 to 12 months after the surgery. The patient is required to wear a retainer after the braces are removed to maintain the corrected position of the teeth.