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What Is Orthognathic (Jaw) Surgery and How Much Does it Cost?

Do you have problems chewing your food? Saying certain words? Getting a good night’s sleep?

If you experience any of these issues or have jaw-related pain – perhaps resulting in headaches – check with your dentist. You could potentially resolve these problems with corrective jaw surgery.

Also known as orthognathic surgery, the procedure straightens or realigns your jaw. Performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS), orthognathic surgery also corrects related jawbone irregularities. Corrective jaw surgery costs depend on various factors, including these:

  • Type of surgery: in-patient or out-patient
  • The severity of the jaw misalignment
  • Other conditions unique to the patient

When completed, jaw surgery can give you a new and positive lease on life.

Who Needs Orthognathic Surgery?

The surgery's primary reason is to correct a severe malocclusion (aka improper bite) causing you problems. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), you might be a candidate for the surgery if you experience any of these conditions:

  • Chewing or biting difficulties
  • Speech problems
  • Sleep apnea, snoring, and other bedtime breathing problems
  • Chronic jaw or jaw joint (TMJ) pain
  • Gum discomfort or pain
  • Involuntary mouth breathing
  • Inability to close your lips without straining
  • Facial or jaw trauma or injury
  • Open bite (a gap between rows of upper and lower teeth when your jaw closes)
  • Protruding jaw or underbite
  • Receding lower jaw and chin
  • Tumor or disease affecting the jaw
  • Improper jawbone growth
  • Congenital disabilities causing jaw misalignment

If a child requires jaw surgery, ideally, it should wait until the child stops growing. That's usually age 14-16 for girls and 17-21 for boys, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, early detection and treatment of a child's orthodontic problems can often prevent the need for surgery altogether.

These three health care professionals will determine if you need orthognathic surgery and develop a plan for you: your dentist, OMC, and orthodontist.

What Does Orthognathic Surgery Involve?

The surgery could require a commitment of one to three years before, during, and after the procedure.

Pre-surgery: If you're not currently under the care of an orthodontist, your OMS might refer you to one. An orthodontist will correct your teeth misalignment (as opposed to your jaw) before and after surgery. If fitted for braces, you should expect to wear them for an average of 22 months.

Surgery: Your OMC will conduct the surgery in a hospital, a specialized surgical center, or the OMC's office operating area. You'll be on the operating table for up to three hours under general anesthetic, which has its risks, as noted by the Mayo Clinic.

Depending on your condition, your OMC might do any or all of these procedures during surgery:

  • Remove part of your jaw
  • Separate and modify part of your jaw
  • Build a new piece of your jawbone
  • Use surgical plates and screws to secure your jaw's proper alignment

Post-surgery: If it's an outpatient procedure without any complications, you can go home the same day. If necessary, you might require a hospital stay of one or two days.

You'll most likely experience pain, swelling, and other minor complications after surgery. In that case, your OMS will prescribe the needed medications.

You can resume your normal activities after one-three weeks, but your total surgical recovery time might be nine-12 months. After that time, you'll visit your orthodontist to ensure your teeth are in proper alignment.

The goal, says the AAOMS, is to achieve a "balanced, functional and healthy" bite.

What Costs Are Involved and Will My Insurance Cover Them?

Your final costs will depend on your particular situation. Among the costs to consider for jaw realignment surgery are those associated with:

  • Testing and other pre-op charges
  • Surgery charges for your OMS, the operating location, and anesthesia
  • A hospital stay, if required
  • Orthodontics charges for your orthodontist visits and braces
  • Pain medications and other post-op charges

Educate yourself by learning all you can about your insurance and financial obligations before proceeding with the surgery. Check with your insurance carrier to verify these items:

  • Necessary pre-approvals
  • Coverage of the surgery and related procedures, including orthodontia. (Your care team should verify it's a medical, not cosmetic, procedure.)
  • The amount you'll pay out of pocket for all charges, including your deductible and co-pay

If you don't have insurance, either work out a payment plan in advance or plan the surgery after securing the necessary insurance.

Though orthognathic surgery might be necessary to improve your bite, make sure you protect yourself financially before having the surgery. Then you can truly enjoy your enhanced quality of life.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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