Orthognathic surgery, or jaw surgery, is corrective surgery for jaw-related issues that cannot be addressed through braces or other orthodontics alone.
Pediatric plastic surgeons at St. Louis Children’s Hospital perform jaw surgery to change the position of the jaw bones when there are issues with your child’s bite or jaw alignment.
Conditions Treated with Jaw Surgery
- Bite problems, such as an overbite, underbite, open bite or crossbite
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Facial injuries
- Cleft palate
- Craniosynostosis, Apert syndrome, Pfeiffer syndrome, Pierre Robin sequence, Treacher Collins syndrome, Saethre-Chotzen syndrome and other conditions in which the skull did not fuse correctly or at the right time, causing jaw problems
Benefits of Jaw Surgery
- By surgically repositioning the jaw bones, our surgeons can improve your child’s ability to bite and chew food, speak and breathe.
- If jaw issues affect your child’s appearance, jaw surgery can also improve your child’s self-esteem.
Our Approach to Jaw Surgery
We create a surgical plan with you to address your child’s functional issues, along with any other goals you and your child have.
Before surgery, we create our own bite splints (with our pediatric dentistry team) and jaw models at the hospital using 3D printing. The bite splint is sterilized and used in surgery to allow for precise translation of our surgical plan.
This preparation allows us to go into surgery with everyone confident that we are on the same page and set up for success.
What to Expect After Jaw Surgery
Your care team will provide you with detailed instructions for recovery after your child’s jaw surgery. In general, you can expect the following:
- Some bruising and swelling for up to 7 days.
- A soft diet for 3 to 6 weeks after surgery.
- Gradual return to normal activities.
- Return to school in 1 to 2 weeks.
Why Choose St. Louis Children’s Hospital for Jaw Surgery?
Dedicated pediatric specialists: At St. Louis Children’s Hospital, we have specialists experienced in all aspects of planning for and performing jaw surgery in children and adolescents. Our pediatric plastic surgeons, anesthesia and child-life teams understand how to tailor surgical preparation to children’s specific needs — from flavored anesthesia and numbing cream for IVs to an in-depth understanding of how a child’s anatomy differs from an adult’s.
Enhanced recovery after surgery: Our surgical team developed a pain protocol to minimize — and in some cases even eliminate — the need for opioids after surgery. This recovery process focuses on staying ahead of the pain rather than catching up. By minimizing opioid use, patients typically experience less nausea after surgery, which allows them to resume eating more quickly and aids their overall recovery.
Patient- and family-focused care: At St. Louis Children’s Hospital, you and your child are considered key members of the clinical care team. That means we make any decisions about surgical options together — including your and your child’s goals, concerns and questions.
A focus on safety and positive outcomes: Jaw surgery is a complex operation. By creating our own bite splints and models, we can ensure that we precisely address the surgical plan during the operation. Our plastic surgery team continually monitors outcomes and other data to find ways to further improve our processes and surgical outcomes.