If you suffer from a misaligned smile or bite (malocclusion), orthodontic treatments provide you with the opportunity to transform the way your teeth and jaw function and improve your self-confidence. Braces are the most common orthodontic treatment, as they can correct a full range of mild-to-severe alignment concerns that affect both your appearance and oral health. Invisalign is only appropriate for mild-to-moderate misalignment, and cannot treat bite disorders. Beyond braces and Invisalign, a treatment many people are unaware of is orthognathic surgery. |
It’s not exactly correct to think of orthognathic surgery as an alternative to braces, as it’s usually only recommended when malocclusion or jaw placement inhibits important jaw functions. For example, if your jaw doesn’t open or close properly, this may make it hard for you to speak, chew, swallow, or breathe properly. Often patients will think their severe overbite is an appearance issue, when in truth it has been connected to their breathing problems for years.
You will never be recommended for orthognathic surgery for wanting a straighter smile, but it may be suggested if your jaw misalignment is severe. Patients who require orthognathic surgery frequently experience: (1) severe overbite, under bite, or cross bite, (2) an open bite, in which the teeth do not touch, (3)difficulty chewing or swallowing, (4) difficulty making the lips meet, (5) a protruding or receding jaw, or (6) a facial injury that causes changes to your chewing, speaking, and breathing patterns
Surgery for Severe Cases
For many patients, braces are an effective way to gradually realign your tooth alignment over a period of up to 24 months. In some cases, however, your doctor may recommend more immediate orthognathic surgery to address severe alignment and bite concerns that cannot be corrected with standard treatments. For patients whose jaws do not line up accurately, a proper bite may not be achievable with braces and/or other appliances, such as head gear. For these special patients, the orthodontist will work closely with a specialized oral surgeon to determine the best treatment plan, which may include surgery and braces.
Benefits of Surgical Orthodontics
While orthodontic surgery will dramatically improve your appearance, the benefits go well beyond the cosmetic. Correcting severe bite alignment problems with orthognathic surgery will help prevent painful conditions and improve your dental health and function.
Proper skeletal alignment of the jaw improves the way your bones and muscles work together when you chew and speak, and will reduce your chances of developing painful temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder symptoms. This condition can lead to chronic pain in the jaw, face, head and neck and can cause teeth grinding (bruxism) which wears down the enamel of the teeth, leaving them more vulnerable to cracking and tooth decay.
Proper jaw alignment through orthognathic surgery can also improve respiratory function by aligning your mouth for better airflow, especially when you sleep at night. Millions of Americans are affected by nighttime breathing disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and a properly aligned jaw may be able to treat or reduce your chances of developing this serious medical condition.
For Jaws That Have Finished Growing
This treatment is typically recommended for patients who have finished growing, so it is usually adults who benefit from the procedure. However, jaw growth is usually complete by age 16 for females and age 18 for males, so older teens may also be good candidates for orthognathic surgery, depending on the severity of the individual case. Orthognathic surgery may be performed on children of a younger age, but usually their conditions are identified earlier in childhood as related to other growth and anatomical dysfunctions. For most kids, surgery is not a valid option.
Dr. Chris Tye is an oral surgeon operating in Colleyville, TX. Visit Texas Oral Surgery Specialists to learn more about orthognathic surgery.
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