Jaw Surgery: What You Need To Know

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A bimaxillary osteotomy, or double jaw surgery, is a surgical procedure designed to correct jaw abnormalities. Its goal is to improve the overall appearance and function of your jaws. Depending on your degree of deformity and dysfunction, your surgeon may need to reposition both upper and lower jaws.

Why jaw surgery may be necessary

You may be a candidate for jaw surgery if:

  • You have trouble biting and chewing
  • You have difficulty swallowing or speaking clearly
  • You have experienced wear and tear of your teeth that is considered excessive
  • You need to correct and overbite or underbite
  • You have asymmetry in your facial features
  • You have pain associated with TMJ or other jaw abnormalities
  • You need to repair an injury or birth abnormality
  • You need relief from obstructive sleep apnea

Your doctor will be able to perform a thorough assessment of jaw form and function, making recommendations for one or both jaws, as well as provide you with valuable information on how to effectively prepare for surgery, what to expect, and how the procedure will impact you going forward.

Benefits of jaw surgery

Many people report life-changing results after a bimaxillary osteotomy. Just a few of these cosmetic and functional benefits include:

1. Correction of misalignments

A misaligned jaw can affect your ability to eat, swallow, speak, and even breathe. Asymmetries and poor fitting jaws can be corrected with surgery, allowing the bones to function as intended.

2. Correction of jaw size

If your jaws did not grow properly or at the same rate of speed, you are likely to have jaw abnormalities. Jaw surgery can help to reposition problems with your bit as well as to reduce or fortify existing jawbone to make them more proportional to the rest of your face.

3. Improvement in function

Many don’t realize the impact of poor jaw alignment until problems with eating, speaking, and swallowing become evident. Proper function of the jaw is essential to being able to live a quality life. In these cases, jaw surgery is a necessary piece of the puzzle for correcting both form and function.

4. Relief from jaw and facial pain

Jaw surgery can help to ease pain that comes with abnormalities and certain conditions such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). TMJ is particularly painful, as it affects the joints on either side of the face responsible for opening and closing the jaw. In extreme cases, the joint becomes so badly damaged that it is difficult to open and close the jaws. Jaw surgery can ease pressure on this joint and provide much-needed relief from constant pain.

5. Relief from obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing is temporarily stopped during sleep. With jaw surgery, your jaws are moved to a position that allows for air to flow freely through your airways, promoting healthy, restful sleep.

Are there risks involved?

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved. Seek out an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon and perhaps an orthodontist to ensure that you are getting the best advice for your specific situation. Risks and complications include:

  • Need for reconstructive dental work
  • Additional surgery
  • Relapse of the jaw into its former position
  • Blood loss or clots
  • Infection
  • Nerve injuries
  • Fractures
  • Ongoing problems with bite and joint pain
  • Loss of a portion of the jaw

In addition, you may experience pain, swelling, issues with eating, and even psychological adjustments that come with slight changes to your appearance. Talk to your doctor and care team about your concerns, and make sure your questions are addressed prior to undergoing your procedure.

Preparing for surgery

In most cases prior to surgery, an orthodontist may place braces on your teeth to align them. Your orthodontist and oral maxillofacial surgeon will work together to develop a treatment plan that includes x-rays, models, and CT scanning to show the progression of teeth and jaw movement. Following all instructions given to you by your care team and disclosing any medications and supplements you may be taking will be essential for a successful surgery. When in doubt, ask about it, and the end result will be a more effective and efficient procedure.

On the day of surgery, you will be given general anesthesia, and your surgeon will make incisions inside your mouth which allow him to reposition the jaws. Once finished, titanium screws will be added to hold jawbones in place, with elastic bands added to keep jaws in their new position. Expect to have a short time during your recovery process when you will be unable to move your jaw as the new position takes hold. You’ll likely spend one to three days in the hospital as your care team monitors your progress and checks surgical sites for signs of healing.

It is advisable to take at least three weeks off from work or school to help facilitate your healing process. During this time, you’ll need to refrain from talking excessively or chewing tough, sticky, or chewy foods that could strain your jawbone. Monitor yourself for signs of swelling, pain, and infection, and be sure to call your doctor if any of these symptoms persist or worsen over time.

What does this procedure cost?

Recent statistics show that double jaw surgery can cost anywhere from $40,000-$60,000, depending on the severity of your condition and the length of your hospital stay. If your surgery is deemed “necessary” by doctors, it will most likely be covered by insurance. Cosmetic surgery needs to be pre-authorized, as some insurance companies may deny care if they do not have an opportunity to review your case prior to surgery.

Look and feel better than ever before

While a double jaw surgery procedure is an extensive and complicated surgery, its benefits are significant and can impact your life in positive ways. You deserve to look and feel your best, consider seeking relief from pain and dysfunction with jaw surgery.

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