How Corrective Jaw Surgery Can Help You Breathe Better

How Corrective Jaw Surgery Can Help You Breathe Better

It may seem far-fetched that your jaw can interfere with your breathing, but the structure of your mouth, including your jaw, influences how air comes in and goes out.

Here to explain, our team of experts at LM Orthodontics in McLean, Virginia, outline how your jaw affects your ability to breathe and how corrective jaw surgery can help you breathe more easily.

How a misaligned jaw affects your breathing

The two main ways your jaw can interfere with your breathing is when you have an underbite or an overbite.

An underbite is when your jaw juts forward past your front teeth, and an overbite is the opposite — your upper teeth overlap your lower teeth because your jaw is set back too far. 

Your jaw is the primary mechanism that opens and closes your mouth, and it’s also the gateway to your airway. If your jaw isn’t positioned properly, it restricts your airway and forces you to find alternative ways of moving air in and out. 

Breathing problems related to a misaligned jaw

In addition to affecting the shape and look of your face and causing problems with chewing and speaking, a misaligned jaw makes it difficult to breathe efficiently.

Most people automatically make adjustments, such as keeping their mouths open all the time, a phenomenon called mouth breathing. While breathing through your mouth can be desirable at times, if you do it exclusively, it can lead to some problems, such as bad breath, hoarseness, lack of focus, irritability, dry mouth, chronic fatigue, and gum disease. 

Mouth breathing may also lead to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that starts and stops your breathing over and over throughout the night. When your airway is restricted or blocked, you don’t get proper oxygenation, so you may experience a range of symptoms from constant fatigue to stroke, heart attacks, and heart failure. 

How corrective jaw surgery can help

Jaw surgery, also called orthognathic surgery, corrects the congenital deformities and/or damage that has set your jaw in the wrong position. Your oral surgeon may take excess bone away, add extra bone material, or reshape your existing jaw, depending on your unique needs. 

Our team works closely with your orthodontic surgeon to develop a plan specifically tailored to your situation. We start by taking X-rays and using digital 3D scans to determine exactly how to reposition your jaw for optimal results.

In many cases, it’s best to begin with orthodontic treatment such as braces or an oral appliance that will prepare your jaw for a successful surgical procedure. 

What to expect from corrective jaw surgery

You’ll be under general anesthesia for your corrective jaw surgery, and it may take anywhere from 2-5 hours to complete. Typically, all the incisions are made inside your mouth, so they won’t show after they’ve healed, but occasionally there’s a need to make a small external incision. 

You may need to stay in the hospital for a few days while you recover. You can expect your jaw to feel stiff and sore, but these symptoms subside over the next few days and weeks. You need to eat soft food and liquids until your jaw heals enough to withstand the pressure of chewing. 

Depending on the extent of your surgery and your individual needs, we may apply braces again after your surgery to ensure your teeth and jaw heal in the proper positions.

Once healing is complete, you can expect to see several improvements, including a better profile, better oral health, and better breathing.

To find out if corrective jaw surgery is right for you, call us at 703-498-2047 or request an appointment online today. 

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