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What is jaw surgery?

Orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery, is a type of surgery that aims to correct various facial and jaw abnormalities. These abnormalities may cause problems with speaking, eating, and breathing, and can affect a person's appearance and self-confidence. In this blog post, we will explore what orthognathic surgery is, the conditions it can treat, and what to expect before and after the procedure.

What is Orthognathic Surgery?

Orthognathic surgery is a surgical procedure that aims to correct various facial and jaw abnormalities. The surgery involves cutting the jawbones and repositioning them to correct the alignment of the teeth and improve the function of the jaw. The surgery is typically performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in conjunction with an orthodontist.

Conditions Treated by Orthognathic Surgery

Orthognathic surgery is used to treat a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Severe overbites or underbites

  • Open bites

  • Crossbites

  • Malocclusions

  • Sleep apnea

  • Facial asymmetry

Before the Surgery

Before the surgery, Dr. Bloom will discuss the various pros and cons of surgery and explain the orthodontic component of the process. He will then refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who will perform a thorough evaluation to determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure. This evaluation will include a physical examination, X-rays, and other imaging tests. Your surgeon will also work closely with your orthodontist to develop a treatment plan that meets your specific needs.

Prior to surgery, braces are placed on the teeth and the teeth are moved into their ideal position. In some instances, this will require making the teeth appear worse than before because they are set into a position most appropriate for the surgery. This presurgical orthodontic phase is essential for a successful outcome and long-term stability.

During the Surgery

Orthognathic surgery is performed under general anesthesia, and the surgery may take several hours depending on the extent of the procedure. During the surgery, the surgeon will make incisions inside the mouth to access the jawbones. The bones will then be cut, repositioned, and secured with small metal plates and screws. After the surgery, the incisions will be closed with stitches.

After the Surgery

Recovery after orthognathic surgery can take several weeks, and the recovery period may be longer if other procedures were performed at the same time. Initially, you may experience swelling, pain, and discomfort, and you may be advised to follow a soft food diet for several weeks. Once the swelling has decreased, Dr. Bloom will continue your orthodontic treatment to resolve any remaining issues and continue to monitor the stability of the surgery.

Potential Risks and Complications

While orthognathic surgery can be an effective treatment for certain conditions, it is a major surgical procedure and carries risks and potential complications. Some of the risks and complications of orthognathic surgery include:

  1. Infection: As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection at the surgical site. Antibiotics and proper wound care can help reduce this risk.

  2. Bleeding: Orthognathic surgery involves cutting and repositioning bone, which can lead to bleeding. This is usually controlled during the surgery, but in some cases, additional intervention may be necessary.

  3. Nerve damage: The nerves that control feeling and movement in the face and mouth can be damaged during surgery. This can lead to numbness, tingling, or weakness in the face or mouth. In some cases, nerve damage may be permanent.

  4. Swelling and bruising: Swelling and bruising are common after orthognathic surgery and may take several weeks to resolve.

  5. Breathing problems: Orthognathic surgery can affect the airway, which may lead to breathing problems. This is more common in patients with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

  6. Changes in bite or facial appearance: While the goal of orthognathic surgery is to improve the alignment of the jaw and teeth, there is a risk of changes in bite or facial appearance that may require further treatment.

  7. Jaw joint problems: Orthognathic surgery can sometimes lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the jaw to the skull. This can cause pain, stiffness, and difficulty opening or closing the mouth.

  8. Temporary difficulty eating and speaking: Orthognathic surgery can affect the ability to eat and speak normally, especially in the first few weeks after surgery. Speech therapy and dietary adjustments may be necessary during the recovery period.

It is important to discuss the risks and potential complications of orthognathic surgery with your surgeon before undergoing the procedure. Your surgeon can help you understand the risks and benefits of the surgery and determine whether it is the best treatment option for your specific needs.

Can Invisalign be used instead of braces?

It is possible to have your presurgical and post-surgical phases of treatment with Invisalign as opposed to traditional braces. However, extra hardware may need to be installed during surgery so that the jaws can be stabilized while things heal. Typically, stabilization is done by instructing the patient to wear elastic bands from the top jaw to the bottom jaw for 2-3 weeks following surgery. With Invisalign, there are no brackets from which to wear the elastic bands so hooks or buttons are often added to the teeth to hold these rubber bands after surgery.


Orthognathic surgery is a major procedure that would be discussed and considered carefully. For patients who decide to move foward with the surgery, they often experience a life altering change that can improve their breathing, reduce snoring, improve their appearance, increase self-confidence, and allow them to bite and chew like they never have before. If you are looking for the best orthodontist near you to help you navigate this difficult topic, schedule a free consultation with Dr. Bloom today! Call us at (720) 743-0700 or send a message through website. We look forward to meeting you!

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