For some, the upper and lower teeth do not align correctly. Dentists and oral surgeons call this “malocclusion.” Malocclusions can describe conditions such as reverse bite and overbite and are usually result from a misaligned jaw.
Symptoms of a misaligned jaw
Genetics usually determine a misaligned jaw, although doctors perform some jaw treatments to aid against jaw pain. Aside from having a consultation with a dentist, you may notice some symptoms that can indicate a misaligned jaw including:
- difficulty chewing or swallowing food
- Problems with speech
- chronic jaw pain (TMJ)
- facial injury
- lower teeth that protrude beyond the upper teeth
- upper teeth that protrude more than normal
- space between the upper and lower teeth
Some of these issues may appear in early development, but treatment for a misaligned jaw may have to wait until the patient has stopped growing (14-16 for females and 17-21 for males). You should also note that treatments can take more than a year to correct.
About misaligned jaw treatment
Doctors use several approaches to treat a misaligned jaw, and they may use some of the solutions in conjunction with one another.
Braces provide a solution for some individuals with a misaligned jaw. Braces are a series of brackets that orthodontists cement to the teeth and connected with wire. Orthodontists gradually adjust the braces over a one to three-year period. Braces correct an overbite which is where the upper teeth extend significantly beyond the lower teeth. Sometimes orthodontists use braces to prepare a patient for corrective jaw surgery with an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.
Upper jaw expander
If you have an underbite, then Orthodontist may apply an upper jaw expander that fits along the upper palate and adjusted nightly. The device can be removed after about a year and will gradually widen the upper jaw. Sometimes an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon will assist the expansion with a surgical procedure.
In some cases, surgery may be the most appropriate course of action. Corrective jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, will help align your jaw correctly.
Corrective jaw surgery
When jaw misalignment starts to interfere with everyday activities like eating, speaking, and breathing, you may require corrective jaw surgery. Corrective jaw surgery is typically the last line of defence against a misaligned jaw, and the process can take quite some time, both in terms of preparation for surgery and the healing process. The surgery may take place on the upper jaw (maxillary osteotomy), the lower jaw (mandibular osteotomy), or the chin (genioplasty).
Preparation for Surgery
Many orthodontists prepare you for surgery by providing braces for several months leading up to surgery. You will work with both an orthodontist and an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) to build a treatment plan.
You can expect a series of X-rays and sometimes CT scans. Additionally, your surgical team will make molds of your teeth and possibly reshape your teeth so that they align better.
The OMS will perform the actual surgery, which is usually outpatient and the patient is under general anesthesia. The surgery takes place in a surgery center or a hospital and usually takes 2-4 hours to complete.
In some of the surgeries your surgeon may make small incisions on the outside of your face requiring only one stitch to close, but most of the surgery takes place inside your mouth. Once the bones are in the correct position, the surgeon will use small screws and bone plates to hold the position.
After your surgery
The healing process will take time, and you will experience pain and swelling in the surgical area. Your surgical team will offer suggestions for a non-chewing diet for 6 weeks and may connect you with a dietitian who can help identify if you need to take any nutritional supplements. Current techniques rarely require you to be wired closed after the surgery.
You may also notice a difference in your facial appearance, which can feel unusual. It may take some time to get used to your new symmetrical look.
The initial part of the healing process will take about six weeks, but you will be able to return to work or school within 2-3 weeks. The realignment process is not quite over once you have surgery. You will need to follow up with your orthodontist and OMS in the months following your surgery to ensure that everything is functioning correctly.
After the initial healing period, your orthodontist will continue to move your teeth with braces. . Although the surgical area will heal within about 12 weeks, the entire realignment process, including braces, may take several years. When your orthodontist removes your braces, they make recommend retainers to keep your teeth in proper alignment.
Benefits of jaw surgery
A misaligned jaw can lead to problems chewing, speaking, and breathing, and corrective jaw surgery can allow you to do these things with ease. Surgery can also stop irregular wear on your teeth, which can easily happen when your bite is out of alignment.
In addition, jaw surgery can help alleviate the pain associated with certain jaw problems like TMJ. This surgical procedure can also provide some relief for sleep apnea. Orthognathic surgery may likely change your facial appearance slightly, correcting asymmetrical features.
Call and schedule an appointment with Arkansas Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons at 501-623-4485. These expert surgeons are trained in corrective jaw surgery and can help restore your smile.