In severe cases, surgical orthodontics, or orthognathic surgery, is required to treat problems with a patient's teeth. Problems can include abnormalities within the jaw bone, bad bites and malocclusion. Surgery is normally a last resort for dental professionals, and is only used when the problem cannot be rectified using other methods.
In the UK, there are 13 fields that a dentist can specialise in, one of which is oral surgery. When required, an oral surgeon will work closely with your orthodontist to ensure that your teeth are ready for orthodontic treatment. This will be part of your treatment plan that is created by your orthodontist.
When examining your mouth and creating your treatment plan, your orthodontist will tell you if you'll need surgery to proceed with treatment. This can depend on the alignment of your jaw, how severe your case is, and your age. You'll only be eligible for surgery if your jaw has finished growing, typically at age 16 for females and age 18 for males. You may also find that your bite is getting worse during the pre-surgical phase of orthodontic treatment, which means you'll need surgery to properly align your jaw.
Surgery is performed at a dental hospital by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. The surgical procedure changes depending on whether the upper or lower jaw needs adjusting.
With the upper jaw, it can be brought forward or back, raised or lowered. Dependent on the movement, the jaws may need to be separated and bone added or removed. There is also the possibility that other bones that contribute to alignment may need to be adjusted. With the lower jaw, the jawbone is separated so that the part of the jaw which has the teeth can be brought forward or back.
Depending on the case, the process can take several hours with a 2 week rest period following the procedure. Orthognathic surgery is a major treatment, so we recommend that you take this time off to rest and heal. It can take 4-8 weeks to fully recover. Once recovered, the post-surgical phase of treatment will involve wearing braces to make final adjustments to your teeth, which can take up to 12 months.
Orthognathic surgery is a major medical procedure, which means it does carry certain risks. As with any treatment, it's always best to talk to your orthodontist and surgeon about the process. As each case is different, they'll be able to give you the most information about your particular circumstance and the risks associated. However, this type of surgery is well established and has been carried out for many years.
The biggest benefit that many patients receive from this treatment is a healthy, more aesthetically pleasing smile. By resolving problems with your bite and jaw, this can help prevent other dental problems from occurring, and can boost your confidence. For some, this may mean that they feel able to smile more, especially around others.
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