The upper and lower jaws are the foundations by which the teeth are supported. Sometimes, when the jaws are too short, or long, too wide or narrow, braces alone can‘t completely correct a bad bite (malocclusion). And, in addition to affecting a person‘s appearance, an improper bite can lead to serious problems, such as abnormal tooth wear, periodontal disease, and possible joint pain.
Orthodontists correct crooked teeth and bad bites. For problems related to jaw formation and misalignment (skeletal problems), an oral surgeon may be needed. When both conditions come into play, it is common for an orthodontist and oral surgeon to work together. Some severe cases can only be corrected with a combination of orthodontics and surgery. The orthodontist, working with the oral surgeon, designs a combined treatment plan. Depending on the problem, treatment by other dental specialists may also be required. This teamwork between the orthodontist, the family dentist and other dental specialists provides better dental health for thousands of patients who are rewarded with straight teeth, bright smiles and facial symmetry – a beautiful combination of shape, form, position and function.
There are many types of jaw development and alignment problems. Some are inherited, some are growth problems, and some are caused by an accident or other trauma. The most commonly corrected problems included:
- protruding upper or lower jaw (one that sticks out too far)
- a retruding chin (one that is too far back)
- an unsightly display of gum tissue above the upper front teeth (a “gummy‘ smile)
- an inability to achieve lip contact when the lips are relaxed
- an elongated face
- asymmetry (facial imbalance)
- cleft palate (in young children)
Most orthodontic patients undergo an initial period of orthodontic treatment to align the teeth so they will fit together properly after surgery is performed. The orthodontist and oral surgeon will schedule surgery after the teeth have been properly aligned.
Usually, braces or other orthodontic devices used to align the teeth before surgery are left in place during the surgical procedure to help stabilize the teeth and jaws. After surgery there is usually an additional period of orthodontic treatment to bring teeth into their final, desired positions, complementing the new facial symmetry.
While the prospect of undergoing surgery as part of the overall treatment plan may seem daunting, it really is not uncommon. The rewards for such treatment can be very dramatic. Following completion of orthodontic treatment and surgery the patient will enjoy better dental health and have a better facial appearance. Best of all, the patient will have a more beautiful smile that reflects a happier, healthier patient for the rest of their life.
Article Courtesy of the American Association of Orthodontists