Teeth Straightening Surgery: How It Works, Costs, Benefits & More

Teeth Straightening Surgery: How It Works, Costs, Benefits & More
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Table of Contents

  1. What is Teeth Straightening Surgery?
  2. Types
  3. Who is a Candidate?
  4. About the Surgery
  5. Costs
  6. Risks
  7. Benefits
  8. Alternatives
  9. Frequently Asked Questions
  10. References

Teeth-straightening surgery is an aggressive treatment option for people who have imbalances between their upper and lower jaws.

Called orthognathic surgery, the procedure moves one or both jawbones to align the teeth and correct speaking, chewing and bite issues.

People often must wear braces for 18 months or longer in the run-up to the surgery.

What Is Teeth Straightening Surgery?

Teeth straightening surgery is a type of orthognathic surgery that repairs severe malocclusion by moving your jawbones into a more favorable position. Your orthodontist may recommend this procedure if your bad bite is caused by severely misaligned jaws. This surgery can help fix speech and chewing issues that impact your overall health and quality of life.

Having orthognathic surgery doesn’t mean that you will not need traditional braces or aligner therapy to straighten your teeth. One of these treatments is generally necessary to complete the teeth straightening process and restore your smile.

Types

Types of teeth straightening surgeries include:

  • Upper jaw orthognathic surgery 
  • Lower jaw orthognathic surgery
  • Chin surgery or genioplasty
Upper Jaw Orthognathic Surgery
Upper jaw surgery or maxillary osteotomy is appropriate for patients with bite issues like a protruding upper jaw. To correct the problem, the surgeon makes incisions in the upper jaw and moves it into position. They then insert plates and screws into the jaw to prevent it from moving during healing.
Lower Jaw Orthognathic Surgery
Also called mandibular osteotomy, this surgery involves making incisions in the lower jaw to move it into the correct position. As with the other orthognathic surgeries, the surgeon secures the jaw in place with plates and screws.
Chin Surgery or Genioplasty
Genioplasty is suitable for patients with misaligned jaws due to a deeply receded chin. The surgeon repositions the chin and fixes it in place with plates and screws.

Who Is a Candidate? 

The best time to have orthognathic surgery is after your jaw stops growing. Growth usually stops sometime between the ages of 14 and 16 years for females and between 17 and 21 for males.              

You may choose to have orthognathic surgery to straighten your teeth if:

  • You have class III open bite (severe malocclusion) due to misaligned jaws
  • You want to enhance the shape of your face and jawline
  • You are aware of and prepared to cope with the risks of invasive treatment, such as post-operative pain
  • You have respiratory or airway obstruction (including obstructive sleep apnea)
  • You have been that orthodontics will not be enough to straighten your teeth

About 15 percent of people who wear braces for jaw-related corrections undergo orthognathic surgery. In addition, surgeons often use the procedure to treat various craniofacial conditions that cause upper and lower jaw imbalances, such as:

  • Cleft palate
  • Cleft lip
  • Syndromic craniosynostosis
  • Miller syndrome
  • Treacher Collins syndrome
  • Hemifacial microsomia

About the Surgery 

Most orthognathic surgery candidates are referred to their oral and maxillofacial surgeon by their orthodontist. Your surgeon will then take you through all of the following steps:

  • Treatment planning
  • Braces or aligners
  • Jaw surgery
  • Recovery
Treatment Planning
First, your surgeon will scan your teeth and jaws using imaging techniques like x-rays or computer tomography (CT) scans. They will then develop your treatment plan based on the images they obtain.
Braces or Aligners

Jaw alignment surgery alone cannot fix misaligned teeth in most cases. You may need to straighten your teeth with braces for up to 18 months before the procedure.

Once the surgical wound is healed and your jaws are aligned, you will undergo another round of orthodontic treatment. This will shift your teeth into their final desired positions.

Jaw Surgery

During your surgery, your surgeon will:

  • Place you under general anesthesia so you are fully unconscious for the procedure
  • Make incisions in your jawbone from inside your mouth to minimize facial scars 
  • Reposition the jawbone by moving it forward or backward to align it with the opposite jaw
  • Secure the moved jawbone in place with safe biocompatible plates and screws

If your jawbone is not dense enough to support the surgery, your surgeon may also graft bone from other parts of your body to your jaws during this process.

Recovery

Much of the early discomfort should be gone about 6 weeks after your surgery. Some patients may require up to three months to recover fully.  To minimize discomfort and accelerate recovery, you should:

  • Avoid tobacco products
  • Maintain good oral hygiene
  • Use pain control medication as needed
  • Relax at home for the first one to three weeks
  • Avoid strenuous work or exercise

You’ll need a special diet to cope with the swelling and restricted jaw movement after surgery. Your surgeon or nutritionist may recommend pureed or liquid food and nutritional supplements instead of solid food, especially during the first few weeks.

Costs

The cost of teeth straightening surgery varies based on factors like:

  • Surgeon’s fees
  • Location
  • Hospital costs
  • Anesthesia fees
  • Diagnostic fees
  • Medical prescriptions
  • Case complexity

Most health plans cover the cost of jaw surgery when it is considered medically necessary to restore functions like speech or chewing.

Risks

Jaw surgery is a medically approved and generally safe option for teeth straightening. However, there are multiple post-operative risks involved, including:

  • Jaw swelling, pain and infection
  • Difficulty eating and chewing before recovery
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Dislocation of the jaw 
  • Tooth trauma requiring root canal therapy 
  • Relapse (when the jaw returns to its original position)

Some patients will also need a second round of jaw surgery to achieve the intended results.

Benefits

Teeth straightening surgery can significantly improve your quality of life and overall health. Some of its benefits include:

  • A more confident smile 
  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Expanded diet options
  • Speech improvement
  • Enhanced facial appearance

Alternative Options 

There are several other ways to correct a bad bite besides orthognathic surgery. These include:

  • Distraction osteogenesis
  • Camouflage therapy
  • Braces with orthodontic anchors
Distraction Osteogenesis
Distraction osteogenesis takes advantage of the jawbone’s natural healing processes to correct its position. Your surgeon may recommend this procedure instead of or in addition to teeth alignment surgery.
Camouflage Therapy

Camouflage therapy can help disguise misaligned jaw issues by removing specific teeth from both the upper and the lower jaw.  

Some patients choose this non-surgical option despite their doctor recommending jaw surgery for bite correction. Camouflage therapy does not address many of the destructive mechanisms that make a bad bite harmful, but it does eliminate many of the post-operative complications of teeth alignment surgery.

Braces with Orthodontic Anchors
Your orthodontist may recommend orthodontic anchors to help shift your teeth in a way that’s difficult or impossible with braces alone. Sometimes, these anchors are effective enough to achieve your desired results without jaw surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to get your teeth straightened surgically?
Teeth straightening surgery is more expensive than traditional braces or clear aligners. The cost of this procedure depends on factors like surgeon’s fees, anesthesia fees, surgery facility fees and how complex your case is. Many health plans cover a significant portion of the cost of medically necessary jaw surgery.
Can you get an operation to straighten your teeth?
Yes. Jaw surgery is sometimes used to correct severely misaligned bites. During the procedure, your surgeon cuts your jawbone and moves it into a more favorable position. Screws and plates are used to keep the bone in place while you heal.
What is the fastest way to straighten teeth?
Aligners and braces are the fastest way to straighten teeth. Surgical straightening can take years and usually requires several months of teeth straightening with braces before surgery. You will also need braces for a few months after your surgery to complete your treatment.

References

OMS Procedures. (2022). American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

How Much does Jaw Surgery Cost? (2022). American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 

Jaw Surgery Takes a $27,119 Bite out of One Man’s Budget.  (August 2021). Kaiser Family Foundation.

Complex Clinical Case With Class III and Open Bite: Stability After Seven Years. (March 2020). Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics. 

Your Diet Following Jaw Surgery. (January 2020). Sheffield Teaching Hospital.

Use of Distraction Osteogenesis in Orthognathic Surgery. (September 2019). Seminars in Orthodontics.

Jaw Surgery. (January 2018). Mayo Clinic.

Camouflage Treatment of a Severe Deep-Bite and Orthognathic Surgery Required Case with En Masse Retraction. (December 2017). Turkish Journal of Orthodontics.

What Is Orthognathic Surgery. Johns Hopkins.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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