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Problems with the jaw can result in difficulty speaking, eating, swallowing, breathing, and sleeping. Some people may have a facial disfigurement—a severely receding chin or protruding jaw or an unbalanced appearance from the front or side. In some cases, jaw problems can be the source of other health problems, such as debilitating headaches or sleep apnea. A severe overbite or underbite may make it impossible to close the teeth or lips together.
The most common jaw problem in children is cleft lip and palate.
Correcting jaw problems
A reconstructive surgeon can correct jaw conditions and injuries through surgery that repositions the jaw. This is sometimes called a maxillofacial procedure. Most commonly, the reconstructive surgeon will cut the jawbone, a procedure known as an osteotomy, to reposition it using titanium screws and plates. This eliminates the need for wiring the teeth together.
Another technique, distraction osteogenesis, splits the jawbone and then moves the jawbone slowly by inserting a screw either inside the mouth or outside and turning it periodically over a few weeks. The advantage of the distraction technique is that it simultaneously increases bone length and the volume of the soft tissue around the bones.
The plastic surgeon may also use bone grafts, taking bone from ribs, hips, or skull, or alloplastic grafts, created from synthetic materials, to create a new jawbone structure.
Reconstructive jaw surgery is major surgery that will require general anesthesia and a hospital stay of a few days as well as recovery time at home afterward.
Why choose Johns Hopkins for reconstructive jaw surgery?
At Johns Hopkins, several of our reconstructive surgeons, pediatric surgeons among them, specialize in facial reconstruction, including jaw surgery. Over years of practice, they have built a reputation as being among the best facial reconstruction surgeons in the country. They have learned about and, in many cases, taught the latest and most effective surgical techniques. In addition, because they work at Johns Hopkins, they can call on any other kind of medical expertise needed right at the facility, from orthopedists and ear, nose, and throat specialists (otolaryngologists) to neurologists and pediatricians.
Our surgeons are devoted to their profession and to providing attentive patient care. From the first consultation to the final check-up, our reconstructive surgeons make themselves available and accessible to patients and their families.