As with other areas of the body jaw growth is usually a gradual process. However in some cases the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates which can cause a variety of functional problems affecting a patient’s ability to chew, speak, breathe, and sleep. Injuries to the jaws and birth defects may also affect jaw alignment. Corrective jaw, or orthognathic, surgery realigns the jaws and teeth and improves basic functions like chewing, speaking, and breathing.
Orthodontists can correct a patient’s bite if only the teeth are misaligned or if there is only a minor discrepancy in the alignment of the jaws. However, if the jaw misalignment is too large corrective jaw surgery may be necessary. Surgery is only part of the process that includes orthodontics before, during, and after surgery. Before your surgery, Dr. Maldonado uses braces to move the teeth into a new position over a period of 6-12 months. As your pre-surgical orthodontic treatment nears completion, additional or updated records, including x-rays, pictures and models of your teeth, may be taken to help guide your surgery. Because your teeth are being moved into a position that will fit together after surgery, you may at first think your bite is getting worse rather than better. When your surgeon repositions your jaws during surgery, however, your teeth should fit together properly. After a short healing period your orthodontist continues your braces for another 6-12 months to “finalize” your bite.
The oral surgeon, orthodontist, and family dentist will work as a team to estimate how long the entire process will take. After the process is completed your jaws and teeth will be in positions that are more balanced, functional, and healthy. The goal is to improve your bite and function yet some patients also experience positive changes in their appearance and speech. The results of corrective jaw surgery can have a dramatic and positive effect on many aspects of your life.