Cons of Orthognathic Surgery
Orthognathic surgery, commonly called jaw surgery, repairs alignment abnormalities between the upper and lower jaws and adjusts the positioning of the teeth to improve their function. As an added benefit, these treatments also often improve the appearance of the face. In some cases, jaw problems can be solved with orthodontic treatments, but when these jaw conditions are more severe, orthognathic surgery might be required. Most of the time, orthodontic treatments are an inseparable part of orthognathic surgery, with braces being worn both before and after surgery to modify the teeth throughout the entire arc of the procedure. Because the surgery changes the arrangement of the jaw, it should only be performed on patients whose bones have developed completely, which is around the age of 16 for women and 20 for men.
There are multiple reasons people undergo treatment with orthognathic surgery. Congenital and medical jaw conditions and those caused by injury or trauma can interfere with the ability to bite, chew, swallow, and speak comfortably, and some conditions can even interfere with the ability to breathe properly. Jaw misalignment causes imbalanced wear on the teeth and accelerates their degradation, and bite issues can also impede the ability to fully close the mouth. Correcting certain jaw conditions can also improve facial symmetry and enhance aesthetics by repairing congenital defects or injuries, and it can provide relief from the pain of jaw disorders and the discomfort of obstructive sleep apnea.
When performed by an experienced, qualified oral and maxillofacial surgeon with an equally qualified orthodontist on their team, orthognathic surgery is a generally safe treatment option. Risks of orthognathic surgery include the general surgical risks associated with anesthesia, infection, blood loss, and nerve injury. Risks that are more specific to jaw surgery include fracture of the jaw bone, damage to the teeth, problems with the fit of the bite and pain in the jaw, the gradual relapse of the jaw to its original position, the need for root canal therapies or further jaw surgeries, and the potential loss of part of the jaw. Some of these risks occur more frequently than others.
In addition to the potential risks of orthognathic surgery, the timeline for treatment can be daunting. Before surgery, an orthodontist places braces on the teeth, where they do their work for a year or two, preparing the teeth for surgery and making space for the modified jaw. Once the position of the teeth is adjusted properly, the braces are removed and surgery is performed. Usually, the surgery is performed entirely inside the mouth, which reduces the risk of scarring, though some incisions may need to be made outside the mouth. The surgical site is allowed to heal for about six weeks before braces are placed onto the teeth again, gradually bringing them into their proper alignment in your jaws. The process of orthognathic surgery treatment, including surgery and orthodontic procedures, can take several years from consultation to completion. While this timeline may be daunting, for many patients, the improved function and appearance of the mouth and face, combined with the health benefits provided by corrective surgery, are worth the risks and the time.