UNEQUAL JAW GROWTH-A CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Jaw growth is a slow and gradual process. Occasionally, something may go wrong with this process and the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. One or both jaws may grow too much or too little. The resulting abnormality may interfere with proper teeth alignment, speaking and chewing. The tongue and lips may be forced to move awkwardly during speech and swallowing in an attempt to compensate for the jaw malrelationship. There may be a speech defect or excessive mouth breathing.
An improper bite may threaten the long-term health of the gums and teeth. The jaw joint (TMJ) can also be adversely affected by a jaw mal-relationship. In addition, jaws of different sizes-that don’t match-can affect appearance.
WHAT IS ORTHOGNATHIC SURGERY?
Orthognathic surgery is sometimes called “Surgical Orthodontics” because, just as an orthodontist repositions teeth, an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon uses orthognathic surgery to reposition one or both jaws. Just as “orthodontics” means “straight teeth,” “orthognathic” means “straight jaws.” In fact, because moving the jaws also moves the teeth, orthognathic surgery is usually performed in conjunction with orthodontics so that the teeth are in proper position after surgery. The objective of orthognathic surgery is the correction of a wide range of minor and major facial and jaw irregularities, and benefits include an improved ability to chew, speak and breathe. In many cases an enhanced appearance may also result.
WHO NEEDS ORTHOGNATHIC SURGERY?
People who can potentially benefit from orthognathic surgery include those with an improper bite and those with jaws that are positioned incorrectly. Jaw growth is a slow and gradual process, and in some instances, the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. The result can be a host of problems that can affect chewing function, speech, long-term oral health, and appearance. Injury to the jaw and birth defects can also affect jaw alignment. While orthodontics alone can correct many “bite” problems if only the teeth are involved, orthognathic surgery may be required if the jaws also need repositioning.
The following are some of the conditions that may indicate a need for orthognathic surgery:
- difficulty chewing or biting food
- difficulty swallowing
- speech problems
- chronic jaw pain
- excessive wearing of teeth
- open bite (space between front teeth when the back teeth are closed)
- unbalanced facial appearance
- facial injury or birth defects
- receding chin
- protruding jaw
- inability to make lips meet without effort
- chronic mouth breathing with the dry mouth
- sleep apnea (breathing problems when sleeping i.e. snoring etc.)
When unequal jaw growth is the source of the problem, corrective jaw surgery (Orthognathic Surgery) may be necessary. Orthodontic treatment (braces or other appliances) may also be needed to allow the teeth to align properly. Corrective jaw surgery involves moving all or part of the upper and/or lower jaw into a more favorable position. For example, the entire jaw can be moved backward if it’s too large or forward if it is too small. The goal of treatment is to improve function and restore facial balance.
Panoramic Radiograph - Panorex - X-ray of Orthognathic or Corrective Jaw Surgery showing use of titanium plates and screws
Some people have facial abnormalities involving just the upper face, cheekbones and nose. These can also be surgically corrected. The bones are repositioned so the facial features are more symmetrical. This is usually accompanied by the return of normal breathing, speaking and eating patterns.
After the jaws are moved into their new position, rubber bands or wires attached to the teeth may be used to fasten the jaws together during healing. Alternatively, rigid internal fixation with miniature screws and plates may be used to allow you to open and close your jaws sooner after corrective surgery.
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
Take a closer look at your bite and appearance. Does your chin stick out? Does it recede? Do your teeth fit together properly? Do you have “buck” teeth? Are your teeth straight?
Unequal growth of the jaws, injury or birth defects can produce problems and symptoms that require treatment by a team that usually includes an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, an orthodontist, and sometimes your dentist. In order to determine if you are a candidate for orthognathic surgery, an evaluation of your condition by this team is necessary.
If you suspect there’s cause for concern, have your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon examine your face and bite.
Portions of the above information provided as a courtesy by:
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
9700 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Rosemont, Illinois 60018-5701
847/678-6200 Fax: 847/678-6286