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What's it like: To get corrective jaw surgery

Corrective jaw surgery can help correct bite alignment when braces alone can't do the job.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: March 3, 2013

/articleid/3760652/1/pictures/1967265">Photo - Dr. Steven Sullivan uses models and X-rays to explain corrective jaw surgery.  Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Dr. Steven Sullivan uses models and X-rays to explain corrective jaw surgery. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Does it hurt?

During the surgery, you shouldn't feel anything. After the surgery, some patients say it's about as bad as getting your wisdom teeth taken out, except the swelling is a bit more.

You likely will be sore and take prescription pain medication. The amount of time patients take pain medication varies on a case-by-case basis. You should be able to return to work or school within one to three weeks.

What are the risk factors?

With any surgery, there's a risk of bleeding and infection.

Specific to jaw surgery, there's a risk of losing feeling in your lower jaw because of possible damage to the nerve that goes through the lower jaw. It could be damaged during surgery, and also, there's a risk that the swelling from the surgery can put pressure on it.

In child patients, the feeling generally comes back, but it's less predictable in adult patients.

Other risks include permanent tingling in the lips or cheek, incorrect positioning of the jaw segments, joint problems and damage to your teeth.

What's the recovery time?

You'll be sent home on a liquid diet because it can be uncomfortable to chew with the soreness from the surgery. Usually, your mouth will not be wired shut, and you generally don't have gauze or drains in your mouth. Rather, you have sutures in your mouth. These should come out within 10 days to three weeks.

Your bones will grow back together, initially held together by plates or screws. Within about six weeks, you should be feeling back to normal. By three months, your bones should be fully healed.

What's the follow-up?

Your surgeon will see you again in about a week, three weeks and six weeks. You likely will return to your orthodontist within six weeks to adjust your braces.

After your bite is corrected, the “wear and tear” on your teeth should be more balanced. Also, it can improve your ability to chew.

Sources: Dr. Steven Sullivan, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the Oral and Facial Surgery Center in Oklahoma City; The Mayo Clinic; American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons; Auckland Oral and Maxilofacial Surgery Group.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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