Jaw Surgery: Can It Adjust Your Bite?

A poor bite is regarded as malocclusion and occurs when your upper and lower teeth do not fall into a proper alignment when you bite. A bad bite can run in families or be due to childhood habits, like thumb-sucking. Trauma and injuries can also lead to a bad bite.

Key takeaways:
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    A bad bite indicates that your teeth do not fit together correctly when you bite down.
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    The causes for a bad bite may range from purely dental reasons to skeletal issues (facial and jaw).
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    A poor bite can be a genetic or developmental trait. For instance, the upper and lower jaws may develop unevenly, resulting in one being longer. Habits like tongue thrust and thumb sucking are common causes.
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    A bad bite can cause problems in chewing, talking, swallowing, and facial aesthetics.
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    A bad bite can be corrected. An orthodontist can guide you on whether you need corrective jaw surgery to re-align the bite.

Orthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons have specialized training that gives them a considerable understanding of both face surgery and dentistry, making them well-equipped to manage jaw surgery. The aim is to repair a poor bite while considering overall facial harmony. Read on to learn more about how to fix a misaligned bite with jaw surgery.

What are the types of bad bites?

A mismatch between the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) can be of various types, as follows:

  • Open bite. A condition where the front upper teeth flare out, leaving a space between them and the lower front teeth during biting. Can be induced by persistent thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting habits. Open bite is frequent at a young age and accounts for 17% of all patients who want corrective treatment;
  • Deep bite. A bite where the upper front teeth fully cover the lower front teeth when biting down;
  • Crossbite. Normally, the upper teeth lie in front of the lower teeth when we bite. In a crossbite, the upper teeth bite on the inside of the lower teeth. If this condition happens in the front teeth (incisors and canine) it is called an anterior crossbite. If the back teeth (premolars and molars) are involved, it's termed a posterior crossbite.

Birth trauma to the temporomandibular joints is another cause of why you may develop uneven jaws.

Why do we need to correct a bad bite?

The repercussions of an untreated bad bite vary according to the extent of the problem, and bad bites seldom self-correct. A poor bite can lead to any of the following outcomes:

  • Difficulties with speech. This can lead to reduced self-esteem and a reluctance to socialize;
  • Interference with eating. When the bite doesn't fall in place, and foods can't be chewed properly, ultimately leading to poor digestion;
  • Muscle strain and headaches. Stress on the jaw muscles often leads to headaches and migraines;
  • Cavities or gum disease. Food often gets caught between teeth, increasing the risk for cavities, plaque, and gum disease;
  • Gum and tongue injury. In severe cases, upper teeth bite into the lower gums, lips, or tongue;
  • Early enamel wear. Due to misalignment, some teeth bear extra force during biting. In the long run, this leads to aggressive teeth wear and inflammation of the supporting tissues;
  • Cosmetic enhancement. A properly aligned jaw enhances the beauty of the face.

Fortunately, bad bites can be corrected. An orthodontist is a right person to guide you on this.

How can you overcome a bad bite?

There are many ways to correct a bad bite, depending on whether it is dental (only related to the teeth), skeletal (related to abnormal jaws), or a combination of both. A malocclusion restricted to the teeth is often corrected with orthodontic therapy (braces). A malocclusion caused by a misalignment of the jaws might need corrective jaw surgery.

Research shows that about 20% of Americans suffer from an abnormal bite relationship; in 15%, the irregularity is significant enough to compromise social acceptability and function, and considerable arch realignment may be necessary.

Who should I see about a misaligned jaw?
A dentist or an orthodontist will guide you on whether a misaligned bite needs orthodontic therapy or surgical intervention.

Types of jaw surgery for bite alignment

Orthognathic surgery addresses a severe malocclusion caused by a misaligned jaw. This involves operations to advance, retract, or broaden the upper jaw or maxilla. It also includes procedures that rotate the lower jaw or mandible to address asymmetry. Orthognathic surgery is typically performed in combination with pre-surgical orthodontic therapy.

Here are three common jaw surgeries:

  • Osteotomy of the maxilla. This procedure is performed when your upper jaw protrudes too much or too little;
  • Osteotomy of the mandible. Done for small, retruded, or too much protruded lower jaw;
  • Bilateral osteotomy or double-jaw surgery. When both jaws are affected by a condition, the surgery involves re-positioning of both.

When to opt for surgery to correct a bite?

If you are considering jaw surgery, you should first consult an orthodontist. An expert team consisting of an orthodontist and an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can give you a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for a misaligned, undeveloped, or overdeveloped jaw.

Suppose you have a jaw problem that cannot be resolved with braces, then it's time to consider jaw surgery.

Recent advancements in virtual computer planning provide more precise dentofacial deformity diagnostic and preoperative planning, thus expanding the scope and prognosis of corrective jaw surgeries.

Jaw surgery – how long is the recovery?

Recovery time following orthognathic jaw surgery varies depending on the patient and treatment. You will spend the night in the hospital and be discharged in the morning or afternoon the day after your operation. The diet is restricted to liquids for the first several days before progressing to a soft diet for the first four weeks.

Jaw surgery is a major procedure. Understanding what jaw surgery entails can assist you in preparing for the final outcome. If you want to explore jaw surgery, meet the experts and clear out your queries.

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