Guide to Jaw Surgery for Overbite Correction

By: Spirit Dental
September 28, 2022

A person reviewing jaw surgery info on their computer

Individuals who have an overbite, or malocclusion, sometimes experience negative side effects — some physical, some emotional. A person may hide their smile out of self-consciousness, or have difficulty eating or speaking if the top teeth protrude significantly.

There are several options for those looking to correct their overbite, and in more serious instances, your orthodontist may propose jaw surgery. Before you panic, we’ve got all the details you need to know about overbite surgery.


What is jaw surgery?

Jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, aims to correct jaw alignment issues by bringing the upper and lower teeth together. Done under general anesthesia, the surgery can include operating on both the upper and lower jaw, and potentially procedures done to straighten the chin. 


Which type of jaw surgery is used for overbite correction?

The procedure used for overbite correction is called mandibular osteotomy. In a mandibular osteotomy, the surgeon effectively causes a jaw fracture by cutting behind the teeth in the lower jaw. Next, the jawbone is pulled forward and kept in place with titanium screws or plates. 

While it varies from case to case, jaw surgery is often done in conjunction with braces or other orthodontic treatment.


When is surgery needed for an overbite?

While mild overbite can be treated through less invasive methods, severe symptoms may indicate the need for surgery, including:

  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Facial injury
  • TMJ
  • Gum disease and/or tooth decay
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Cosmetic issues in the smile or facial structure

As children are still growing and developing, this surgery is usually only recommended for adults.

In most cases, if surgery is needed, your orthodontist will refer you to a surgeon to discuss the procedure and share their recommended treatment plan. 


What can I expect from overbite surgery?

Like any invasive operation, correcting an overbite with jaw surgery requires a certain level of preparation as well as a recovery process. 


Preparing for jaw surgery

Before surgery, your orthodontist and/or surgeon may strongly suggest starting the alignment process with braces or other aligners. Additionally, X-rays, measurements, and molds will likely be taken to plan postoperative positioning of the jaw as well as the predicted facial appearance. 

Be sure to speak with your employer or school so you can sort out paid leave and medical leave (if applicable) well in advance. And the same goes for any help you might need to outsource or hire for, like having your home cleaned or someone to help transport kids to activities. 

Finally, it’s important to manage your emotions and expectations for healing. Prepare for some swelling and discomfort, side effects from medications, limited physical activity and potential dramatic change in your appearance. Come to your pre-op appointments with questions, and don’t leave anything off the table. You should go into the operation feeling 100% confident in your decision. 


During jaw surgery

You will be put under anesthesia for jaw surgery to minimize pain. The maxillofacial surgeon will make cuts on the inside of your mouth to access the jaw without creating scars on the face. After making these cuts, the surgeon will move your jaw into the desired position. 

Then, bone plates, screws, wires and/or rubber bands are affixed to the jaw bones to hold them in their new position. Where wiring the jaw shut after surgery used to be common, it’s typically not necessary, as the plates, screws and other materials tend to be strong enough to anchor everything in place. 


Recovering from jaw surgery

As much as you want to feel great immediately following surgery, healing will take some time. You’ll spend two to three days in the hospital and will be prescribed a mild analgesic and anti-inflammatory to help with pain and swelling. 

The average timeframe to reach full recovery is six to eight weeks, though the exact period of time depends on the patient and the specifics of the procedure. Fortunately, in less than a month following surgery, the worst symptoms should pass, including:

  • Mild nausea (usually fades in the first few days)
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Pain and discomfort

In the meantime, avoid hard, chewy and solid foods and stick to options like soft or mashed fruits and vegetables, soups and purees. You should also be able to return to your normal diet and everyday routine in about four weeks — but wait for the go ahead from your surgeon. While infection is unlikely, it’s important to attend any scheduled post-op visits to ensure everything is progressing as expected.


Overbite jaw surgery FAQs

Get answers to the most commonly asked questions about jaw surgery below.


Is overbite surgery painful?

While you won’t feel much during the procedure, you will have some pain and discomfort in the days and weeks following. You’ll be prescribed medications to help manage pain, swelling and bruising. 


How much is overbite surgery?

Without insurance, the cost of jaw surgery can reach tens of thousands of dollars. However, if you’re enrolled in a dental insurance plan, you may be able to have some or all of the procedure covered. If your overbite is causing breathing difficulties or speech impairments, you’re more likely to have surgery covered. 


Can you fix an overbite without surgery?

If you have a less severe overbite or don’t want to go through the process of surgery, there are other treatment options available to help align teeth:

  • Braces: Metal wires adhered to teeth with cement to shift and straight teeth over time.
  • Invisalign: A series of clear plastic aligners worn to shift teeth position over time.
  • Extraction: The process of removing a tooth to make room for others to move as desired. This procedure is typically performed for children with an overbite.


Is it worth fixing an overbite?

Overbite can make a person insecure, but its effects go way beyond that. Overbites can cause long-term problems, not just for your teeth and gums but for your overall health. Fixing the problem may feel like a lot — financially, physically and emotionally — but in the long run, it’s well worth it. You’ll experience results like:

  • Improved teeth function
  • Improved sleep, chewing, swallowing and breathing
  • Improved speech
  • Improved facial structure

Looking for a dental insurance plan to help you maintain your smile and correct an overbite? Check out available options and get a quote from Spirit Dental today. 


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