What is Lower Jaw Surgery or Orthognathic Surgery?

Lower jaw surgery, or mandibular “Orthognathic” surgery, is performed to correct facial skeletal abnormalities, misaligned jaws, and dental irregularities. Lower jaw surgery, performed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons, not only improves a patient’s smile and appearance, but also their ability to chew, speak and breathe. Other benefits of lower jaw surgery may include the relief of facial pain, headaches, snoring and obstructive sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. While a patient’s appearance may be dramatically enhanced as a result of orthognathic surgery, corrective jaw surgery is performed primarily to correct functional problems.

Lower jaw surgery also called mandibular orthognathic surgery may reposition all or part of the lower jaw and/or the chin. Mandibular surgery may involve the horizontal lengthening of the lower jaw in patients with a recessive jaw. It may also involve shortening of the lower jaw in patients with a prominent lower jaw. It may also involve the vertical lengthening in patients with a short lower face. Lower jaw surgery may also be used to correct an open bite or deep overbite. Some patients will require surgery of the upper jaw and lower jaw often called “double jaw surgery”. In some cases, other facial cosmetic surgery may be done simultaneously with orthognathic jaw surgery.

Who Needs Lower Jaw Surgery?

People who benefit from orthognathic surgery are those who are misaligned teeth and jaws creating an improper bite. Jaw growth is a gradual process, and the upper and lower jaws may occasionally grow at different rates. This can cause functional problems including difficulty with chewing, speaking, breathing, sleeping and overall oral health. A severe misalignment may affect a person’s appearance and produce psychological or emotional problems.

Jaw or head injuries and birth defects may also affect jaw alignment. Orthodontic braces correct bite problems caused by tooth misalignment, and Orthognathic surgery corrects jaw misalignment.

Conditions that may need Lower Jaw Orthognathic surgery:

  • Difficulty chewing or biting food
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic jaw or jaw joint (TMJ) pain and headache
  • Excessive wear on the teeth
  • Under bite
  • Overbite
  • Open bite (space between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed)
  • Unbalanced facial appearance from the front or side
  • Facial injury or birth defects
  • Receding chin
  • Protruding jaw
  • Inability to make one’s lips meet without straining
  • Breathing Problems – Chronic mouth breathing and dry mouth
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea (breathing problems when sleeping, including snoring)
  • Speech Problems

Lower Jaw Surgery may also involve treatment of:

  • Upper Jaw (Maxilla)
  • Chin
  • Cheekbones
  • Nasal Bones
  • Other Facial Bones

Evaluating Your Need for Orthognathic Surgery

Dr. Joseph works closely with your dentist and orthodontist to determine whether orthognathic surgery is recommended, and which procedure is deemed appropriate. Prior to surgery, your medical health history is reviewed, and a thorough examination – including facial measurements, photographs, X-rays, bite recordings and dental impressions are completed.

The Lower Jaw Surgical Procedure

The duration of orthognathic surgery varies with the type of surgery and the severity of the abnormality. Dr. Joseph will give you an idea of approximate time required for your particular surgery.

Lower jaw surgery usually requires separation of the rear (joint portion) of the jaw from the front portion that supports your teeth. Dr. Joseph will then move your lower jaw according to your specific needs. This allows us to move your lower jaw forward or backward. The boney segments are repositioned and fastened with tiny surgical plates and screws. Occasionally, bone is added or taken away or reshaped. In extreme cases the jaws may require wiring of the teeth for 5-7 weeks.