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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

Why get corrective jaw surgery?

Corrective jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, is performed to correct bone problems that exist within someone's jaw that can't be corrected with only braces on the teeth.

Some people become aware that they need jaw surgery when they go to an orthodontist for braces.

Along with a dental problem, it might be discovered that you have a skeletal problem and need surgery to correct overgrowth or undergrowth of your jaw.

Before the surgery, you likely will have braces on your teeth to move them into a new position. These braces will stay on during your surgery and be adjusted about six weeks after you've had jaw surgery.

What happens during the surgery?

Corrective jaw surgery is generally performed in a hospital or surgery center. To begin the surgery, you will be placed under general anesthesia, where you fall asleep and generally won't feel pain during the procedure.

There's a misconception that, during jaw surgery, your surgeon will “break your jaw.” Rather, what happens is your surgeon will surgically separate your jaw.

There are various ways to perform the surgery, including segmentalism, in which your surgeon cuts your jaw into segments to move it into place, or through a single-piece method, in which there isn't as much sectioning of the jaw.

Generally, your surgeon will pull your cheeks back and begin making cuts inside your mouth. Most of the time, incisions are made inside your mouth, but occasionally your surgeon will make an incision in the cheek to correct issues in the lower jaw.

To correct your upper jaw, your surgeon will make cuts high in the upper lip at the base of the nose inside the mouth. Your surgeon will lift the gum tissue and make surgical cuts in the bones of the upper jaw, moving it where it needs to be. Your surgeon will place screws, plates or other devices inside your jaw to ensure it stays in position.

For your lower jaw, your surgeon will make cuts by your wisdom teeth, lift the gum tissue and make a surgical cut. Once this cut is made, your surgeon will be able to move the bottom of your mouth similar to how a dresser drawer moves, sliding it back or forward where it needs to be.

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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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