Our jaw plays an important role both aesthetically and functionally.
Misaligned jaws (when a person’s upper and lower teeth do not perfectly meet) is a real condition, and they are usually due to genetics.
When your teeth don't fit together properly, you can develop problems not only in your teeth themselves, but also in the gums, the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), or the muscles that move your jaw.
DoctorxDentist invited Dr Ho Kok Sen, an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, to answer readers' questions through a DoctorxDentist Session on how jaw surgery can help to solve these issues.
Misaligned jaws are not life-threatening, but they cause functional difficulties
Although it isn't necessary to get a jaw surgery if you're suffering from disproportionate jaw positions, you will most likely face functional difficulties that will affect your daily lives.
People with disproportionate jaws find themselves facing certain functional difficulties such as:
- Inefficient biting and chewing
- Worn down tooth enamel, increasing susceptibility to tooth decay, sensitivity, and other dental issues
- Chronic headaches and temporomandibular joint disorder
- Affected speech clarity
- Extended or prominent chin
It may also affect your confidence
Dr Ho explained that aesthetically, you may also find that the balance of your faical features might look a little off, or that your chin seems more prominent. He has had patients whose confidence were affected by this.
Who should consider jaw surgery?
According to Dr Ho, the most common types of jaw surgeries are performed to correct three main types of jaw complications.
- An open bite - some of the bone in the upper jaw is removed and the upper jaw is secured in a new position.
- A protruding lower jaw (underbite) - the back portion of the jaw is separated from the front and modified so it can be moved back into proper alignment.
- A receding lower jaw - the bone in the lower portion of the jaw is modified so the chin can be repositioned forward.
Jaw surgery in Singapore costs an upward of $10,000
This excludes additional fees for pre and post orthodontics, an anaesthetist, operating theatre, and hospital admissions.
Why so steep? One might ask. Well, jaw surgery is a super technical procedure that can be performed only by experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
The exact cost is determined by the complexity of the patient's condition, how much experience the surgeon has, and whether or not you opt for public or private healthcare.
Medisave can be used for jaw surgery
Since it's a surgical procedure, Medisave can be used to cover part of the fees.
The amount that can be claimed? From $5,000 onwards, depending on the complexity of the procedure and subject to Medisave withdrawal limits.
During your consultation with the oral surgeon, he or she will be able to advise you on the claimable amount.
Generally, jaw surgery is considered safe
Dr Ho reassures you that jaw surgery is considered a safe and effective treatment for misaligned jaws. Nonetheless, as it is a surgery after all, there are risks in the short and long run.
Risks that may occur right after your surgery
The more common short term risks would be minor nose bleeds, swelling in the operation site, and some abrasion at the corners of your lips.
Like any other surgery with an open wound, you may also get an infection. Of course, your surgeon will prescribe you a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to mitigate this.
Your jaw joint might also become stiff, and this may last for several months.
Long term risks that are unlikely to occur
Some long term risks that may occur in the long run include:
- Damaged nerves that can cause permanent numbness or altered sensation
- Infection of plates that were used to secure the new position of the jaws (more likely to happen if you're a smoker)
- Your jaw and teeth might move back towards their original position because the muscular force that caused the misalignment is still present
According to Dr Ho, it's not common for these long term risks to occur.
There will be no visible scars after jaw surgery
For the most part, surgery is done from the inside of the mouth so that no scars can be seen on the face, chin, jaw or around the mouth area.
In some cases, doctors may have to make a small cut on the jaw but that will heal. It's barely noticeable after a few weeks.
You'll need to spend at least a night in the hospital after jaw surgery
Don't expect to perform a somersault right after your surgery! You'll need time to recover from the general anaesthesia, and you won't be able to eat or drink well right after the surgery.
An IV drop will be required so that you get all the nutrients and medication required. The exact duration of your stay depends on the extent of your surgery and your personal speed of recovery.
Good oral hygiene is required to ensure successful jaw surgery
Take care of your teeth and listen to your orthodontist and oral surgeon. They know your dental condition and are the best ones to guide you along the process.
Dr Ho stressed that it's important to maintain good oral hygiene before and after the treatment so that there will be no additional dental issues. If you're a smoker, it's best to stop smoking.
You should also avoid taking drugs with aspirin as you may experience undesirable side effects during the operation.
Last but not least, rest more before the surgery!