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Corrective Jaw Surgery

(Orthognathic Surgery; Maxillofacial Surgery; Maxillary Osteotomy; Mandibular Osteotomy)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Reasons for Procedure | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor


Corrective jaw surgery will reshape or reposition the jaw bones. The surgery may be done on the upper jaw, lower jaw, or both. This surgery may also be called:

  • Maxillary osteotomy—upper jaw
  • Mandibular osteotomy—lower jaw

The Upper and Lower Jaw Bones

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Reasons for Procedure

This surgery is done to correct a problem of the jaw bone.

The jaw is the platform for the teeth. Certain jaw problems make it difficult for the upper and lower teeth to line up correctly. The misalignment can cause:

  • Difficultly chewing or biting
  • Speech problems
  • Challenges with breathing
  • Problems breathing during sleep such as sleep apnea
  • Jaw pain

The surgery may also be done to repair cosmetic problems. This may include receding chin, protruding jaw, or lips that don’t meet. It may also be done to repair problems from:

  • Facial injuries
  • Birth defects
  • Genetic conditions
  • Bone disease or conditions that affect bone growth

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Numbness or pain in sinuses, ears, or teeth
  • Excess bleeding
  • No improvement in symptoms
  • Poor cosmetic outcome
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia (such as light-headedness, low blood pressure, wheezing)
  • Infection
  • Nausea and vomiting

Factors that may increase the risk of problems include:

  • Smoking
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Medical problems, such as heart disease

Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.

What to Expect

The change in your jaw will require a change in the position of your teeth. To prepare your teeth for the surgery you may have several months of dental care. Your dentist may use braces or similar tools to help shift your teeth into the correct position.

Closer to your surgery you may have x-ray and models of your teeth done. This will help guide surgical work.

Talk to your doctor if you take any medicines, herbs, or supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:

  • Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin
  • Anti-platelet drugs, such as clopidogrel

You may be asked to not eat or drink anything starting the night before your surgery.

General anesthesia will be used. It will block pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.

The exact procedure will depend on your specific needs. Most incisions will be made inside the mouth. Some incisions may need to be made outside of the mouth.

The specific work done on the bones will depend on your needs. Some steps may include:

  • Removing a section of bone
  • Separating a portion of the jaw so that is can be moved backward or forward
  • Reattaching the new edges of bone with metal plates, screws, or wires

The bones will be adjusted until the upper and lower teeth are lined up.

The incisions may be closed with stitches or a special liquid that acts like glue. Gauze may be placed over the surgical wounds. The gauze will stay in place for a few hours after surgery. Rubber bands may also be used with a dental appliance. They will help keep your jaw in alignment until your jaw heals.

After the operation, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. The gauze may be removed once you wake up.

Ice may be placed around your jaw to decrease swelling.

The length of surgery will depend on the changes made to your jaw. It may be 2-4 hours.

Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. As you recover, you may have some pain. Your doctor will give you medicine to manage any pain.

You may need to stay in the hospital for 2-5 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.

You will be asked to start with a modified diet. Depending on the details of your surgery, your doctor may recommend just liquids at first or soft solids. You will be given a schedule to work back toward your normal diet.

You will be able to notice cosmetic change immediately. Your jaw will need to heal before you can do normal movements. As a result, it may take some time to feel the improvements in bite or jaw movement. Your bone should heal in about 6 weeks. It will take about 9-12 months before the jaw heals completely.

When you return home, take these steps:

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions on cleaning the incision site.
  • Avoid strenuous activity until your doctor says it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid using tobacco products.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

You may have discomfort in your teeth, ears, and jaw. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Medication to decrease this pain
  • Applying ice to the area in the first few days

Ask your doctor when it is safe to return to school or work. It may be one to three weeks before you return to normal activities.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the surgery site
  • Foul smelling breath
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicines you were given
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you were given
  • Spitting or vomiting blood
  • New, unexplained symptoms

If you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Academy of Periodontology


American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons



Canadian Dental Association


The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association



Corrective Jaw Surgery. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Available at: http://www.aaoms.org/conditions-and-treatments/corrective-jaw-surgery. Accessed August 23, 2012.

Home care after surgery. Fallon Oral Surgery of Syracuse. Available at: http://www.fallonoralsurgery.com/forms/Home_Care_After_Surgery.pdf. Accessed August 23, 2012.

Jaw Surgery. University of Pennsylvania Health System—Plastic Surgery. Available at: http://www.pennmedicine.org/plasticsurgery/recon/jaw.html. Accessed August 23, 2012.

Orthognathic surgery. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Standford. Available at: https://www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/dental/maxfac.html. Accessed August 23, 2012.

Orthognathic surgery. Harvard Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Available at: https://www2.massgeneral.org/homfs/procedures_orthognathic.asp. Accessed August 23, 2012.

Oral wound care after Mohs Surgery. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Available at: http://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/B_EXTRANET_HEALTH_INFORMATION-FlexMember-Show_Public_HFFY_1122504649806.html. Accessed August 23, 2012.

Last reviewed March 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD; Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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