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I have been told I require jaw surgery to correct my overbite. What can I expect?

Is having straight teeth important? Put simply, yes; there are both aesthetic and functional benefits associated with having a “good bite.”

The technical term for this is occlusion, which refers to the contact between the teeth as they bite together. Malocclusion, also known as “bad bite” may be caused by crooked teeth, extra teeth, crowding of the teeth, receding gums, or problems with the jaw bone, joint or surrounding muscles.

While the technical classification of Malocclusion is complicated, the take home message is this — moderate to severe Malocclusion should be treated. While consultation with your Dentist is the best way to assess your bite, some telltale signs of problems include excessive wear of the teeth, jaw pain and headaches.

Where moderate to severe Malocclusion is present, there are many treatment options, including teeth straightening, removing extra teeth or replacing missing teeth, muscle relaxation techniques, as well as jaw surgery.

What does jaw surgery involve?

Corrective jaw surgery, otherwise known as orthognathic surgery involves correction of the position and/or size of the upper and/or lower jaw bones (the maxilla and mandible, respectively).

Like any complex surgery, a multidisciplinary team of professionals is involved. This includes an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and will generally include an Orthodontist (in most cases, braces will be required before and after the surgery), and will occasionally include a speech and language therapist. Because the procedure is performed under general anaesthetic, an Anaesthetist is also part of the team.

The surgery itself involves cutting and realigning the upper and/or lower jaw bone(s), which are held in their new position with plates or screws.

What’s a typical jaw surgery recovery time?

During surgery, the upper and lower bones will usually be wired together to prevent unwanted movement. Mostly, this will be removed when the surgery is complete, but in some cases these wires do need to be left in place for a short time post-surgery.

Generally, an all-liquid diet is required immediately after the procedure, which is fairly quickly progressed to soft food and eventually hard food. Your Surgeon will prescribe painkillers to ensure you’re comfortable, and in some cases antibiotics to help prevent infection.

Swelling and bruising is not unusual, but this generally recovers quickly. Overall recovery time varies greatly; anything from a couple of weeks for minor surgery (jaw surgery isn’t always major!) up to 12 months for extremely complicated procedures falls within the normal range.

How much does jaw surgery cost?

Total jaw surgery cost involves three individual components: the Hospital’s fee, the Anaesthetists’s fee and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon’s fee.

The single biggest factor in determining the cost of the procedure is whether just the upper, just the lower, or both jaw bones are undergoing surgery. In the majority of cases, both the upper and lower jaw will be operated on, however this is not always necessary.

Beyond this, the amount of time required to complete the surgery (which is based on the complexity of the case) will also effect cost, as will a number of other, more minor variables.

Medicare rebates may apply, as well as Private Health Insurance rebates (depending on your individual cover).

The only way to accurately estimate the anticipated cost of treatment is consultation with an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and your Dentist can organise this at your request.

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