Is Orthognathic Surgery a Major Surgery?

Orthognathic surgery is a surgical treatment that is used to repair the jaw when it doesn’t align properly. This treatment involves a combination of orthodontic and surgical procedures that takes a couple of years, if not more, to complete. The upper jaw, or maxilla, and the lower jaw, or mandible, are supposed to line up comfortably and efficiently, designed to properly perform and support regular functions like biting, chewing, and speaking. When the jaws don’t align properly, orthognathic surgery is used on either the maxillary or mandibular jaw, or on both jaws. The process begins with orthodontic adjustments to the teeth to prepare them for surgery; once the teeth are properly prepared, surgery takes place. After the patient has recovered from surgery, additional orthodontic treatment fine-tunes the teeth over the course of several months. Including the timeline for both orthodontic procedures and factoring in surgical recovery time, orthognathic surgery often takes at least a few years to complete.

Before treatment can begin, your surgical team will take comprehensive x-rays, scans, and photographs of your teeth and jaw, making an impression of your teeth to use for modeling. Your orthodontist will prepare your teeth, possibly removing teeth if needed before putting on braces, which you’ll wear for about a year. Once the teeth have moved to the proper positions, surgery can commence. Your surgical team will make sure you’re properly prepared for the procedure and review your expected recovery timeline; the surgery is performed with general anesthesia, and you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days following the procedure. A plastic splint placed in your mouth during surgery will help train the muscles in the jaw to allow them to adjust, and you’ll wear this splint for about eight months. Following surgery, your face will appear very swollen, and you’ll get prescription medications for pain and to prevent infection; ice packs, applied in increments, can also help with pain. Expect to be on a liquid or soft diet for the next month or two. Once final orthodontic appliances are placed after surgery, they are worn for about six to nine months, followed by retainers that are usually worn for about a year.

All major surgeries come with risks, like those associated with anesthesia or infection, and orthognathic surgery also has some specific risks of its own. The procedure could cause damage to the teeth or peripheral problems with the jaw joint, and you might need additional surgeries if there are problems that remain or if the bones don’t heal properly. Recovering from orthognathic surgery takes time, though this amount of time varies from person to person. In most cases, patients don’t return to work or school for several weeks following surgery. Ask your medical team about light exercise following surgery, and give yourself time to recover fully. Much of the time, recovery takes about a year. Orthognathic surgery is a major surgical treatment that dramatically modifies the facial structure, and it should be treated with the appropriate care and caution for as long as it takes to fully heal.

Is Orthognathic Surgery Painful?