Double Jaw Surgery - What to Expect

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Corrective or orthognathic jaw surgery is an option available to people with abnormal facial bone structure, particularly if it affects the jaws and teeth. An orthodontist can correct a patient's bite if only the teeth are misaligned, but when jaws are misaligned it creates challenges with speaking, eating, sleeping and other routine activities. By performing double jaw surgery, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may resolve these problems.

Hearing your dental practitioner suggest this surgery can be frightening. The name alone is enough to make you apprehensive, and if this is your first major surgery you're like to be even more nervous. Here are some things you should know about the procedure.

What to Expect

The procedure, also known as a bimaxillary osteotomy, usually involves repositioning the jaws by removing a section and implanting titanium supports, explains the British Orthodontic Society. The changes enable the correct realignment of the jaw to improve the patient's bite.

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia. Whether you have the surgery in a hospital, clinic or the offices of your surgeon, you'll have an anesthetist in attendance to ensure your experience is safe and as stress-free as possible. Depending on the complexity of your case, you'll either go home the same day or spend a few days in the hospital. Your surgeon will give you an estimate of how long you'll be required to stay. Research analyzed and published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (JOMS) shows patients spent an average of 2.95 days in the hospital for this procedure.

In regard to your day-to-day after the surgery, eating will be limited to taking liquids through a straw for the first 14 days, after which you will move on to using a cup and then eating soft foods. After six to eight weeks, you can resume your normal diet, notes King's College Hospital. Speech will also be limited for the first 14 days, until some of the bands holding your jaws in place are removed. Most double jaw surgery patients return to work or school two to four weeks after surgery, says Oxford University Hospitals.

Between 30 and 90 days after surgery, you'll start to lose the numbness and regain feeling in your jaw area. Full healing takes nine to 12 months, plus the time with your orthodontist to fine-tune the alignment of your jaws after surgery. It may take years to see full results.

Risk of Complications

Of the more than 10,000 patients polled for the JOMS report, double jaw surgery complications were rare. Surgical risks include blood loss, bacterial infection, injuries to nerves, and a need for root canal therapy on specific teeth, notes the Mayo Clinic. In some instances, the jaw can relapse to its former position and require further surgery. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will explain if you are at risk for this.

Questions to Ask

The most important questions to ask your surgeon are:

  • What do I prepare for my surgery? Planning may include taking time off work or school, notifying and explaining to family members, and changing any travel planned during the following few months.
  • How much pain will I experience? Your surgeon, orthodontist and family dentist are all part of your team for double jaw surgery, and they will work together to ensure your experience is as comfortable as possible. You may have pain and swelling for the first two to three weeks.
  • How do I maintain oral hygiene during recovery? For approximately the first week post-surgery, you won't be able to brush and floss your teeth as usual. Your dentist will recommend a quality mouth rinse to use through a straw, such as Colgate Total Mouthwash for Gum Health, which kills 99 percent of germs on contact and gives you 12-hour protection against bacteria that cause gingivitis.
  • Will my face change? The answer to this depends on your circumstances, but often repairing structural jaw abnormalities improves the patient's appearance. While orthognathic surgery is performed for medical and not esthetic reasons, patients are seldom unhappy with the outcome.

Having double jaw surgery may seem like a terrifying option, but through comprehensive discussion with your dental team, you can overcome your concerns and look forward to the results.

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