If you have a jaw or a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problem, it can impact breathing, speaking, chewing, pain, appearance, and many aspects of life. The highly trained and experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeons with Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin use corrective jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, to alleviate the full range of conditions impacting jaw function. In the case of TMJ problems, surgeons may recommend arthroscopy or arthroplasty (open jaw surgery), including jaw joint replacement to provide the best results.

Corrective Jaw Surgery

With advanced training and extensive experience, our oral and maxillofacial surgeons offer all options for corrective jaw surgery, from the common to the complex. Knowing we are based in academic medicine, you can feel confident that our treatment recommendations are based on thorough diagnosis, proven treatment approaches and what is best for you. 

The goal of jaw surgery is to restore the best function possible, but appearance is often enhanced, too. Surgery may reposition all or part of the upper jaw, lower jaw and chin to correct conditions including:

  • Open bite (space between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed)
  • Improper bite, due to misaligned jaws (misaligned teeth can often be corrected with orthodontics) 
  • Unbalanced facial appearance
  • Facial injury or birth defects 

The following symptoms may be signs that a jaw problem exists:

  • Difficulty biting or chewing food
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic jaw joint (TMJ) pain, clicking, headache or earache
  • Excessive worn teeth
  • Receding chin
  • Protruding jaw
  • Straining to make the lips meet
  • Dry mouth and chronic mouth breathing
  • Sleep apnea (breathing problems and snoring while you sleep)

Planning for Orthognathic Surgery

Most patients are referred for corrective jaw surgery by their dentist or orthodontist, who consults with our oral and maxillofacial surgeons to plan care. Approaches often involve braces or other orthodontics prior to and after orthognathic surgery, so the entire process may take a year or more to complete.

What to Expect from Jaw Surgery

Once orthodontic treatment winds down, surgical plans are solidified. X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans may be taken to show current facial structures. These images and models of your teeth are used to guide surgery. Surgeons perform many corrective jaw surgeries on an outpatient basis at our surgery center, but some surgeries may need to be performed in the hospital under general anesthesia. During the procedure, your surgeon may add, subtract or reshape your jaw bone. He or she may use surgical plates, screws, wires, rubber bands and other devices to hold your jaws in their correct positions. 

Expect diet and activity restrictions for the first few weeks after surgery. You likely will be able to return to work in one to three weeks, and will feel completely healed in nine to 12 months.

TMJ Surgery – Arthroscopy, Arthroplasty and Joint Replacement

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the small joint that hinges your skull and lower jaw (mandible). As with other joints in your body, bone and cartilage can deteriorate over time or be severely damaged. If non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful or damage is too great, surgery may be recommended. One option is arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure in which surgeons use scopes to inspect and repair joints. 

Another option is open surgery (arthroplasty), which is major surgery to repair or replace the jaw. Arthroplasty is done under local or general anesthesia. Recovery involves pain control and diet and activity restrictions. Full recovery can take several weeks and will likely include physical therapy.

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