Understanding Orthognathic Surgery

A jaw that's too small, too large, or crooked can cause problems with chewing, speaking, breathing, and even sleeping. The shape of your jaws also affects the way your face looks. Orthognathic surgery is treatment that reshapes the jaws to improve their form and function.

How Orthognathic Surgery Can Help

Some people are born with poorly aligned jaws. Others develop problems as the bones grow or as a result of an injury. Orthognathic surgery realigns facial bones, making jaws work together better. Surgery is only one part of the treatment process. In most cases, treatment to move and straighten the teeth (orthodontics) is needed before and after surgery. This combination of treatments can relieve problems caused by teeth and jaws that are out of alignment.

Your Treatment Plan

Orthognathic surgery and related treatments can take time, often over a year. Starting treatment and not completing it could leave you with more problems than you have now. So you need to commit to the process before treatment begins. Your plan will likely include a time frame for each stage of treatment. Typical stages and time frames are shown here:


stage 1

Diagnosis and Treatment Plan


1-4 weeks


Exams and tests
Surgeon and orthodontist consult together
Meet with team members to discuss overall plan

stage 2

Preparation for Surgery


12-18 months


Dental work
Orthodontic work (braces) and regular checkups
Meet with surgeon to prepare for surgery and recovery
Quit smoking (if you smoke)

stage 3

Surgery and Hospital Recovery


1-3 days


Observation in the hospital while you recover from anesthesia and get started on a liquid diet

stage 4

Recovery at Home


2-6 weeks


Rest at home; on a soft diet for 2 or more weeks
Postoperative exam by surgeon
Gradual return to normal eating and normal oral hygiene

stage 5

Postsurgical Treatment


6-12 months


Complete orthodontic treatment
Follow-up with surgeon as needed
Routine dental care
Other dental care, if needed