What Is Surgical Orthodontics?

Here at Riverview Orthodontics, we find patients in and around Tuscaloosa and Demopolis often ask us – What are the benefits of surgical orthodontics? 

And that makes sense! after all, surgical orthodontics aren’t as common or well-known as something like braces, or a retainer. However, it turns out that they can be just as important! In some cases, surgical orthodontics can make the difference between a healthy, happy smile, and a lifetime of headaches, trouble eating, even breathing problems! 

For most patients, clear aligners, metal braces, lingual braces, or a clear brace fix their teeth and jaw alignments without a problem. If your case is a bit more complex, surgical orthodontics might be necessary to achieve the same results.

We’ve asked Dr. Upton to go over the ins and outs of surgical orthodontics, so read on to learn more! 

Surgical Orthodontics – What Is It? 

Simply, put, surgical orthodontics consists of surgery performed on the mouth, jaw, face, and skull for oral healthcare or cosmetic purposes. Surgical procedures can realign the jaw by moving it in any direction or shortening or lengthening it. Surgical orthodontics are only appropriate in patients whose jaws have completed development. 

There are some cases in which surgical orthodontics should be the first step leading into a more traditional round of orthodontic care. Using surgical orthodontics to deal with these more pronounced jaw misalignments first can reduce the risk of unnecessary pain, joint problems, or an undesired change in facial structure. Without surgery, these patients may have a higher chance of relapse with nonsurgical treatment options alone. 

Will I Definitely Need Surgical Orthodontics? 

Definitely not! Just because you’ve been recommended to get orthodontic treatment like braces or clear aligners, that doesn’t mean you need surgery. In fact, surgical orthodontics are comparatively rare. This study, for instance, found that roughly 100K people sought orthognathic (another name for orthodontic surgery) surgery in the study period. While that may sound like a lot, consider that over 9 million patients receive orthodontic care in the United States each year!

That means it’s a very small percentage! However, if it does look like orthognathic surgery might be right for you, Dr. Upton will work closely with you so you understand everything you can expect going into it. 

What Are Some Common Orthodontic Surgery Cases? 

Surgical orthodontics are most commonly utilized in the case of more pronounced jaw complications that aren’t capable of responding to primary treatment, such as braces or invisalign. Jaw complications can be the result of trauma like a sports injury, or a congenital disability, or even simply from how the jaw developed as you grew up. Whatever the cause, jaw issues can lead to difficulty breathing, challenges communicating, digestive issues (struggling to bite into food or chew sufficiently), and oral health issues. You might also notice abnormalities in facial structure or aesthetics.

What is Surgical OrthodonticsDepending on the degree of severity of these challenges, you may be a good candidate for surgery. 

For a more comprehensive list of issues that may lead to orthognathic surgery as a possible solution, consider the following:

  • an underbite (lower jaw that sticks out)
  • an overbite (lower jaw that goes inward)
  • trouble swallowing
  • persistent teeth friction or grinding
  • an open bite (the teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed)
  • an unbalanced facial appearance
  • TMJ or jaw joint pain
  • headaches or migraines
  • breathing issues when sleeping, like sleep apnea
  • a dry mouth from frequent mouth breathing
  • an inability to comfortably make your lips touch

Nine times out of ten, we find that noninvasive, traditional orthodontic treatments alone are plenty to solve many of these cases. Dr. Upton and the Riverview team customize care to each patient, and we take into account the severity and impact on your quality to decide whether surgery is the right step for you. 

Who Will Be Performing My Orthodontic Surgery? 

Although Dr. Upton will not directly carry out the surgery, he will work hand in hand with the surgeon performing the procedure. A collaborative effort involving an oral surgeon, dentist, Dr. Upton, and any other relevant specialists (such as an ear, nose and throat doctor) will collaborate to figure out whether surgery is right for you.

Remember, your care is always our highest priority! 

What Will Surgery Look Like? 

Leading Up to Surgery 

Our skilled team will begin by conducting a comprehensive examination of your mouth, teeth, gums, and jaw using X-rays and digital scanners. This meticulous assessment provides us with a thorough understanding of your oral health and facial structure. Utilizing our cutting-edge technology, we then generate a 3D interactive model of your mouth, which serves as the foundation for planning your orthodontic treatment and evaluating potential jaw adjustments. And the most exciting part? We present you with a visual representation of the anticipated final outcome after surgery and braces.


Back when our parents were kid, it was common for surgical patients to have their jaw wired shut in the post-op. That’s not the case anymore! Nowadays we utilize much less invasive screw-and-plate systems that take less time and heal more efficiently.

However, any surgery is still a major procedure, so you can expect to need at least two weeks to clear your work or school schedule in order to heal properly. Rest is important, and you should never skimp on this important step. 

Dr. Upton will work with you to evaluate your progress, and once he’s determined it’s appropriate, you’ll begin your primary course of treatment! And that, my friends, is a whole other article.

What is Surgical OrthodonticsMore Questions? Call Today!

Thank you so much for taking the time to learn a little more about surgical orthodontics! It’s Dr. Upton’s greatest priority to work with you collaboratively, and he feels it’s important to keep patients educated on any and all aspects of their treatment.

So what’s the next move? Well, it sounds like a free consultation is in order! Call today or schedule your free consultation to get started!