How Long Does Orthognathic Surgery Take?
Orthognathic surgery is a treatment that involves more than just surgery. When a person’s upper jaw and lower jaw don’t connect correctly when the mouth is closed, or if the teeth don’t fit properly in the jaw, corrective jaw surgery adjusts the position of the jaws and is used in conjunction with orthodontic treatments that redesign the compatibility of the upper and lower jaws and the teeth they contain. To prepare the teeth for redesigned jaws, the treatment begins with orthodontic procedures like braces. Once the teeth have been adjusted properly, which usually takes several months, surgery can take place. The duration of the surgery itself depends on the extent of the procedure or procedures required; when only the upper jaw or lower jaw needs surgery, the procedure takes about two hours, and when both the upper and lower jaws are being repaired, surgery takes about three to four hours. While this procedure may not take a terribly long time, it is performed in a hospital setting while the patient is fully anesthetized. In some instances, the patient can go home the same day as surgery, though most patients spend at least one night in the hospital after their surgery, and some stay for three or four nights.
It’s important to factor healing time into the question of how long orthognathic surgery takes. When both jaws require surgery, patients are usually out of commission for about two or three weeks, recovering at home. This healing time decreases when only one jaw is being treated. Some amount of discomfort is inevitable following a major surgery like jaw surgery, but healthy habits can help speed recovery and alleviate pain. Your surgical team will explain more thoroughly and provide medication and dietary instructions, and you’ll use this medication along with ice packs to manage pain. Keeping your head elevated can help reduce swelling, and maintaining a healthy diet can help expedite recovery. For the first few days following surgery, your diet will be liquid; following this period, you can graduate to soft foods. Make sure to keep these foods varied and nutritious, and avoid chewing harder foods.
Once the surgical sites have fully healed, the second orthodontic treatment begins. In this treatment, the position of the teeth is adjusted with braces once again to account for the newly sized and shaped jaw, which usually takes about a year. While the duration of surgery and recovery take a few months, the overall timeline of the orthognathic treatment is considerably longer when these necessary orthodontic procedures are factored in. In many cases, it takes three or four years to fully modify the jaws with orthognathic surgery, which almost always includes these orthodontic treatments as a key part of redesigning the jaws.
Problems with the jaw that might necessitate orthognathic surgery can be caused by injury and by certain medical conditions, or they can be congenital, which means they’re present at birth. Congenital issues include overbite and underbite, cleft lip and palate, and other conditions that can prevent the mouth from closing properly and interfere with eating, speaking, and even breathing. Injuries and medical conditions that can lead to misaligned jaws include fractures due to impact, temporomandibular joint disorders, sleep apnea, tumors and cysts, and hormonal disturbances. Your surgical team will review your overall health and, when needed, work with your primary care provider to resolve underlying issues while addressing your orthognathic treatment needs.