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Double-Jaw Surgery

Orthognathic surgery on the maxilla or mandible corrects abnormalities in jaw growth that can occur naturally, or corrects deformities caused by congenital conditions such as cleft palate, diseases such as cancer, or facial traumas.

Sometimes, the facial imbalance created by the abnormality is best addressed with double-jaw surgery. For example, if the maxilla is underdeveloped and needs to be moved very far forward, a surgeon may suggest also moving the mandible back.

A kind of double-jaw surgery is also used as a treatment for some serious cases of sleep apnea and snoring - this treatment moves both the upper and lower jaws forward in the hope that opening the airway will alleviate the conditions.

The surgery can involve bone-moving procedures such as osteotomy (bone-cut) and distraction osteogenesis, as well as bone-grafting techniques that may use either artificial bone material or a patient's own bone, taken from elsewhere in the body. The treatment plan may also include orthodontic procedures such as braces.

Treatment

The surgery requires local or general anesthesia. When possible it is done through the inside of the mouth, to eliminate scarring. Often, double-jaw surgery can be stabilized with the use of tiny plates and screws (rigid fixation), but sometimes fixation may require having the mouth wired shut (intermaxillary fixation) for two to six weeks after the surgery.

Patients will have to maintain a no-chew diet for a period of time during recovery as directed by their surgeon. Right after the surgery, many people experience facial swelling that can be severe for the first few days. Applying ice packs can bring down the major swelling, but residual swelling can take several weeks to go down. Patients may also feel some numbness in their lips, gums and/or chin for some time after the surgery.

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