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Straight Talk: Corrective Jaw Surgery for Your Overbite

Growing up with an overbite can evoke painful childhood memories of being called bucktoothed or nicknamed Bugs Bunny in school. Over time, an overbite can become such a major source of insecurity that a person with one may even feel reluctant to smile.

Clearly an overbite can play a major role in the type of first impression you make—on job interviews, at work and in relationships. For most people, braces are all that is necessary to correct a bite or “occlusion” problem, such as an overbite, when only the teeth are misaligned. Sometimes, braces alone can’t solve the problem and corrective jaw (or “orthognathic”) surgery may be necessary to correct misaligned jaws.

What’s involved in corrective jaw surgery? First your dentist, orthodontist and oral surgeon will work together to determine if corrective jaw surgery is right for you. It is important that you understand all the details of your treatment, including the fact that you’ll probably be wearing braces before and after surgery.

As a first step, an orthodontist will place orthodontic braces on your teeth to move them into a new position prior to corrective jaw surgery. Your teeth are being moved into a position that will fit together after surgery, so you may first think your bite is actually getting worse rather than better. Once your orthodontic treatment nears completion, your records will be updated with new X-rays, pictures and models of your teeth.

These updated dental records will serve as a guide for your oral surgeon while completing corrective jaw surgery for your overbite, which may take one to several hours to complete. During the procedure, your oral surgeon will reposition your jawbones to correct their misalignment by adding, taking away or reshaping bone. The oral surgeon will hold your jaws in their new position by using surgical plates, screws, wires and rubber bands. To reduce visible scarring, incisions are usually made inside the mouth. If tiny incisions are required outside of the mouth, your oral surgeon will take care to minimize their appearance.

During your recovery, which usually lasts about six weeks, you’ll need to stick to a modified diet, maintain a strict oral hygiene program and rest. Most patients are able to return to work or school from one to three weeks after surgery, depending on how they’re feeling. However complete healing of the jaws takes between nine and 12 months.