You might think of orthodontia as nothing more than the placement of braces to straighten crooked teeth. In the case of the younger child, this would be correct. For teenagers and adults, however, any abnormality of the jaw might call for something more. When a misalignment or deformity of the bone precludes the achievement of a proper bite through braces alone, surgical orthodontics can help.
What Surgical Orthodontics Can Do
In cases where an irregularity of the jaw is responsible for crooked teeth, malocclusion or improper bite, only a correction of the abnormality will permit their adjustment. The operation to accomplish this, more formally known as orthognathic surgery, will put the jaw into the proper alignment, after which braces followed by a retainer will aid in correctly repositioning the teeth.
Determining a Need for Surgical Orthodontics
Some jawbone abnormalities are obvious to anyone who sees them. A receding chin, protruding jaw or unbalanced facial appearance can serve as a clear indication. However, not all misalignments are serious enough to warrant orthognathic surgery. In the less severe cases, only your orthodontist can make a final determination.
The Proper Age for Undergoing Surgical Orthodontics
Unless it is necessary to correct a cleft palate or other serious abnormality, orthognathic surgery is only possible after the jaw has stopped growing. This will not occur until the age of 16 for females and 18 or more for males. However, the orthodontist can begin preliminary repositioning of your teeth from one to two years prior to that time.
The Surgical Orthodontic Process
A maxillofacial surgeon will perform your orthognathic surgery in a hospital setting. It should take several hours to complete, although the actual length of time will vary depending on the circumstances of the particular case. Following surgery, a two-week recovery period is normal.
The Post-Surgical Period
After the jaw has healed sufficiently, the orthodontist will check your bite and fit you with braces to reposition your teeth. You will wear these for a period of six to 12 months, and after they come off, the use of a retainer will aid in maintaining your teeth in their new position.
Risks of Surgical Orthodontics
The risks of orthognathic surgery are the same as with any other major medical procedure. However, this type of surgery is not new. Maxillofacial surgeons have performed it for years, and its safety record is long. However, if you have any questions or concerns, your orthodontist can best address them.
Many insurance companies recognize that deformities of the jaw can cause a significant impairment of normal function. As a result, this type of surgery is one they will normally cover.
What Surgical Orthodontics Can Do for You
For anyone who has suffered for years from a jaw abnormality, the medical and cosmetic rewards of surgical orthodontics are great. Whether you have the surgery to correct a malocclusion, bad bite or abnormality of the jaw, the extent to which surgical orthodontics can improve your looks and general health should leave you smiling for the rest of your life.