Corrective jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, is performed to properly align the upper and lower jaws to ensure good function and avoid difficulties in chewing, swallowing, speech and facial disharmony. Corrective jaw surgery is done in conjunction with pre- and post-procedure orthodontics, and provides a stable bite. Often, there are positive changes in the facial esthetics and appearance as an additional benefit of the improved function.
Often it is the general dentist or orthodontist who initially diagnoses the dental and skeletal problems in the jaws. Then the oral and maxillofacial surgeon is consulted to further define the skeletal problems and propose treatment in coordination with the orthodontist. The surgeon, orthodontist, and frequently the general dentist, will communicate closely to coordinate care and ensure the best possible outcome.
The overall treatment involving corrective jaw surgery is often described as being divided into 3 phases. The first phase is pre-surgical orthodontics. This is usually the longest of the 3 phases. This involves seeing the orthodontist to remove dental compensations, crowding, rotations, etc to prepare the bite for surgery. Often there are compensations that have allowed the patient to function as best as possible which need to be removed, thus often making the bite “worse” during this phase. The second phase is the surgical phase where the procedure is done to properly align the bite. This is done under a general anesthetic in an operating room setting, often in a surgery center. Including the post-operative healing, this accounts for about 6 weeks and is the shortest of the 3 phases. Phase 3 begins when the surgeon refers the patient back to the orthodontist to begin the post-surgical finishing. This allows the orthodontist to “fine tune” the bite and complete the treatment. The third phase is usually several months and ends with the orthodontic appliances being removed and retainers being worn to maintain the bite.
Generally, once it has been determined that corrective jaw surgery will need to be included to optimally align the bite, the surgeon becomes involved so that a comprehensive plan can be developed. Often this first visit to the surgeon is before the patient even begins orthodontic treatment, or just after the braces are placed. Then, the patient is monitored on a periodic basis by the surgeon, usually every 3-4 months, while they are being readied for the procedure. This allows the surgeon to communicate with the orthodontist to ensure everything is done to coordinate care prior to the procedure. It also allows the patient and doctor to develop a relationship and ensure the patient understand all facets of the treatment. Also, we will contact your medical insurance carrier to help determine if any coverage is available. Many of our patients finance their procedure with third party payors. Our office staff is very knowledgeable and helpful in assisting patients with this option. We work with several companies that provide financing with excellent terms, making it affordable for many patients who don’t have insurance coverage, or otherwise would be unable to receive the care they need.