If you or your child has been referred to the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) for orthognathic surgery, it is likely that this has been preceded by the care of an orthodontist. While braces are commonly used to straighten teeth, many people require orthognathic surgery to properly align their bite. From the Greek "orthos"—meaning straight—and "gnathos"—meaning jaw—orthognathic surgery refers to corrective surgery where the maxilla (upper jaw), the mandible (lower jaw), and dentoalveolar segments (sections of teeth) are repositioned to improve or restore bite, jaw function, facial contours, and/or speech.
Planning for Surgery
Jaw abnormalities and facial deformities may be caused by genetics, injury or disease. Orthognathic surgery is normally planned and executed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in conjunction with an orthodontist. Working together, the orthodontist will work to position the teeth so that they will properly "occlude" following jaw surgery. It is also common to plan other procedures in connection with the orthognathic surgery, such as those involving the chin, cheekbones, nose or neck, in order to provide the optimal aesthetics and facial contouring to accompany a repositioned jaw.
Orthognathic surgery is typically a "short stay" procedure requiring one night in the hospital before returning home. Due to recent advancements in medical technologies and surgical materials, patients rarely experience "intermaxillary fixation" (having their jaws wired shut). Instead, today's oral and maxillofacial surgeons use small titanium plates and screws to secure the patient's bones internally, allowing greater comfort and function to the patient during the immediate post-operative period. Although restricted to liquid and soft diet, patients can normally return to work or school and talk normally after an initial recovery period.
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