Surgical orthodontics, also known as orthognathic surgery if you want to get technical, corrects jaw irregularities to enhance your ability to chew, prevent breakdown of your teeth, speak and breathe while also improving your facial appearance. In the simplest terms, surgical orthodontics straightens your jaws. It is the gold standard in treating conditions like sleep apnea, and in bad bites and jaw misalignments that are too severe to treat with braces alone. Obviously moving the jaw means your teeth will move too, so braces are used in conjunction with surgery to ensure teeth are in their ideal place.
Dr. Kwong only considers surgical orthodontics for adult patients whose jaws are done growing. Individuals with improper bites that can’t be fixed by braces alone and those with facial esthetic concerns may be candidates. Jaw growth is usually complete by age 16 for girls and age 18 for boys. While we have to wait until growth is final, the pre-surgical tooth movements can begin a year or two prior to these ages if necessary.
How Does Surgical Orthodontics Work?
You’ll start the process by wearing braces or Invisalign, usually for six to 18 months. During this time patients sometimes think their bite is getting worse instead of improving. However, after orthognathic surgery, when the jaws are in proper alignment, the teeth will fit into their correct positions and your smile will look amazing.
The surgery is performed in the hospital by an oral surgeon. It can take several hours depending on the amount and type of surgery required. In lower jaw surgery, the jawbone behind the teeth is separated and the tooth-bearing portion is moved forward or backward as needed. In upper jaw surgery, the jaw can be repositioned forward or backward or raised or lowered. Certain movements may mean the jaw has to be separated with bone added or removed to achieve the proper alignment and stability. Other facial bones that contribute to alignment might also be repositioned or augmented.
After surgery, you’ll want to rest and recuperate. You should be able to return to school or work within two weeks. After the necessary healing time, which is usually about four to eight weeks, Dr. Kwong will fine-tune your bite. In most cases, we’ll remove the braces six to 12 months post-surgery to reveal a brand new smile.
Find out how we can help you smile with confidence by scheduling a free consultation with Dr. Kwong.