What is Malocclusion? Before answering any of the questions regarding what one should expect from jaw surgery, the first thing that should be addressed is the reason for the procedure. In the vast majority of cases, the person undergoing the surgery is having it done to re-align the jaw because of a ‘poor bite’. That is to say that when the teeth are clenched tightly, they don’t line up correctly, which is often a result of the jaw not providing enough space for the teeth residing there. In some cases, a dentist can correct this problem with tooth extraction and/or braces. However, in severe situations, jaw surgery is required.
What Problems are Associated with Malocclusion? A misaligned jaw can create problems in everyday life, making it more of a challenge to eat, speak, and even sleep. A person may not even be aware of how severe the problem is until the dentist has taken action to correct it and he or she discovers how much easier these daily activities become. A common nighttime ailment known as sleep apnea has been linked to this condition. The misaligned jaw can also lead to bruxism, which is more commonly known as ‘teeth grinding’.
Will I Be Awake for the Surgery? No. Jaw surgery, which is also known as orthognathic surgery, is performed under general anesthesia, so you will sleep through the entire procedure. If you have experienced troubles with anesthesia in the past, this is something that should be discussed at length with the surgeon, prior to the operation.
Is it an Outpatient Procedure? Not necessarily. It is not uncommon for patients to be hospitalized overnight after having this type of procedure done.
How Long will it Take to Heal? In most cases, a person can expect the healing process to take several weeks. The bone must have time to recover and during that time, wires, plates, screw, or some combination of those things will be used to keep everything in place. Regular visits to the dentist after surgery are very important, so the teeth and jaw can be tracked for any problems in the future.
When Can I Return to Work or School? Though most find it possible to return to school not long after the procedure is done, there are restrictions made that could prevent full participation in your job. This includes limits placed on lifting. Anything over thirty pounds is generally restricted for up to one month. Similarly, contact sports should be avoided for three months after surgery.
What Complications May Arise? As with any major surgery, there are risks. However, the most common problems include parethesia, which is numbness of the lip, bleeding, swelling, and muscle spasm. In fewer than fifteen percent of cases, there may be some degree of infection.
Will There be Visible Scarring? Scars are not generally visible after jaw surgery. The incisions are made within the mouth, making them invisible to onlookers, except your dentist.
Do I Have to Have the Surgery? This is really a decision to be made between you and your orthodontist. However, jaw surgery is typically considered an elective procedure and is done for added comfort and improved appearance rather than emergency complications.