Orthognathic surgery: what is it and how does it work?

Orthognathic Surgery: What is it?

Orthognathic surgery is corrective jaw surgery, which involves one or both jaws being surgically repositioned. It is a treatment suitable and recommended when there is a ‘bad bite’ (malocclusion), which shows as an imbalance between the size and growth of the jaws.

In some circumstances, the top jaw is bigger than the bottom, or it may go the opposite way with the bottom jaw being more prominent than the top. Orthodontic treatment improves the way the teeth are positioned, and in combination with orthognathic treatment, the way the top and bottom teeth fit together can enhance the functionality and aesthetics of your teeth.

Orthodontic treatment is often used in combination with orthognathic treatment. This is because Invisalign treatment or traditional braces only have minor effects on the way the jaws are positioned. Unbalanced jaw sizes have implications for the way jaws function, the appearance of the face, chewing and biting abilities, as well as speech. Therefore, it is crucial to correct this.

Performing Orthognathic Surgery

Orthognathic Surgery is a procedure completed by an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMFS). An OMFS has further professional training in the specific areas of jaws, the mouth and facial bones.

Who is it for?

The craniofacial skeleton growth is not complete until adolescents and young adults, which is generally a requirement for Orthognathic Surgery to be performed.

What does the treatment process look like for Orthognathic Surgery?

The entire process has a duration ranges from 18 to 24 months. This factors in treatment planning, orthognathic surgery and orthodontic treatment.

Treatment Planning Phase

This aspect is crucial to understanding the patient’s needs, expected outcomes and associated fees. The first step is the consultation process with your dentist, where dental models, x-rays, photographs and other necessary treatments will be completed. These are diagnostic tools essential to create your written treatment plan. Along with your treatment plan, associated fees and item numbers for health insurance purposes will be provided.

Before Surgery: Orthodontics

For effective surgery, the teeth must be appropriately positioned before jaw surgery. For this to take place, the timeline for orthodontic treatment (braces), usually involves a treatment process of 8 – 16 months.

Once the teeth are adequately positioned, new records are taken to plan the surgical procedure carefully.

Operation Preparation

For the most ideal surgical outcome, as well as effective healing, there are specific recommendations to be followed and completed. These include:


Smoking is related to increased rates of infection postoperatively and slower wound healing. It is strongly recommended to stop smoking two weeks before your surgery.


Discussing current medications with your surgeon is very important. One month before surgery, no medications aspirin should be taken. For the months post-surgery, aspirin, Ponnstan and Naprogesic medications should be avoided.

Mouth Care

A healthy surgical environment is ideal, it is recommended to follow an oral hygiene routine which involves brushing two times a day, as well as flossing.

Blood Tests

Depending on the specifics of your surgery, your surgeon may recommend certain blood tests before your admission.


AM: It is required you do not eat or drink anything after 12:00AM (midnight)

PM: It is necessary you do not eat or drink anything after 7:00AM


  • You will be cared for in the hospital and upon discharge will receive appropriate pain medication, a specific mouth rinse, dietary advice, care advice and a scheduled review appointment.
  • Only softly blow your nose and avoid sniffling excessively
  • Lifestyle wise, avoid alcohol, excessive physical activity for 2 weeks and smoking. Avoiding smoking is particularly important as it can impair healing and lead to a chest infection.

Surgery FAQ

[thrive_toggles_group”][thrive_toggles title=”Where will I have my surgery?” no=”1/7″] Orthognathic surgery is a treatment completed at a private hospital. [/thrive_toggles][thrive_toggles title=”What type of anaesthetic is used?” no=”2/7″] Treatment is performed under general anaesthesia. You will be in the care of an anaesthetist, who you will meet at the hospital and inform you of the anaesthetic component of your treatment. [/thrive_toggles][thrive_toggles title=”How long can I expect to stay in hospital after treatment?” no=”3/7″] 1 – 3 days [/thrive_toggles][thrive_toggles title=”How long should I take off school/work to recover?” no=”4/7″] 1 – 2 weeks is the recommended time to arrange to have off work. [/thrive_toggles][thrive_toggles title=”Why do I need so much time to heal?” no=”5/7″] The healing process involves initial bruising and swelling, as well as limited jaw movements. During the surgery, the jaw has it’s repositioning fixed with titanium screws and plates. [/thrive_toggles][thrive_toggles title=”What can you do to help the healing process?” no=”6/7″] Follow the recommended dietary and exercise plan provided to you. Attend your review appointments to ensure proper healing is progressing. [/thrive_toggles][thrive_toggles title=”What is involved with my orthodontics after surgery?” no=”7/7″] The orthodontic treatment needs to be completed, which generally takes an additional 6 to 8 months of active treatment. [/thrive_toggles][/thrive_toggles_group]