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Jaw Surgery

Jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic (or-thog-NATH-ik) surgery, corrects irregularities of the jaw bones and realigns the jaws and teeth to improve the way they work. Making these corrections may also improve your facial appearance.

Jaw surgery may be a corrective option if you have jaw problems that can’t be resolved with orthodontics alone. In most cases, you also have braces on your teeth before surgery and during recovery after surgery until healing and alignment are complete. Your orthodontist can work with your oral and jaw and face (maxillofacial) surgeon to determine your treatment plan.

Jaw surgery is appropriate after growth stops, usually around ages 14 to 16 years for females and ages 17 to 21 years for males.

Close-up of Woman with marks drawn for cosmetic treatment on her jaw

Why it's done

Jaw surgery may help to:

  • Make biting and chewing easier and improve chewing overall
  • Correct problems with swallowing or speech
  • Minimize excessive wear and breakdown of the teeth
  • Correct bite fit or jaw closure issues, such as when the molars touch but the front teeth don’t touch (open bite)
  • Correct facial imbalance (asymmetry), such as small chins, underbites, overbites and crossbites
  • Improve the ability of the lips to fully close comfortably
  • Relieve pain caused by temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and other jaw problems
  • Repair facial injury or birth defects
  • Provide relief for obstructive sleep apnea

Risks

Jaw surgery is generally safe when done by an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon, often in collaboration with an orthodontist.

Risks of surgery may include:

  • Blood loss
  • Infection
  • Nerve injury
  • Jaw fracture
  • Relapse of the jaw to the original position
  • Problems with bite fit and jaw joint pain
  • Need for further surgery
  • Need for root canal therapy on selected teeth
  • Loss of a portion of the jaw

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