Three Facts About Jaw Problems and Jaw Surgery

jaw surgeryGoing to the dentist or oral surgeon may be scary, but could alleviate symptoms suffered by many people. Jaw surgery may be an option to treat some conditions and symptoms that are caused by improper alignment of the jaw, such as a misaligned bite, speech problems, protruding jaw or weak chin, and difficulty breathing. Here are three little known facts about jaw surgery:

TMJ Disorder Is Usually Not Treated With Jaw Surgery

The temporomandibular joint (or TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull. In the United States, approximately 35 million people have been diagnosed with a TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder is the name for a collection of conditions that cause jaw pain and dysfunction of the jaw joint. TMJ disorder includes pain and discomfort in the muscles that control the jaw, physical dysfunction of the jaw joint, and inflammation or degeneration of the jaw joint.

There is no single cause of TMJ disorder. Some cases are caused by trauma to the face, jaw, or head or repetitive stress, like grinding or clenching the teeth. Other causes might include arthritis or genetics. Some cases have no apparent cause.

Jaw surgery is usually reserved for only the most severe cases of TMJ disorder. Most cases of TMJ disorder are treated with rest, pain medication, and anti-inflammatory medication.

Not All Jaw Pain is Caused by TMJ Disorder

While TMJ disorder causes jaw pain and discomfort, jaw pain may also have other causes, such as sinus infection, tooth pain, misaligned jaw, birth defect, or periodontal disease. A dentist can determine whether jaw pain is caused by TMJ disorder or by something else.

Jaw Surgery May Be Used to Treat Some of These Other Conditions

While orthodontics can re-position teeth, jaw surgery can be used when the jaw itself needs re-positioning. Jaw surgery can address jaw pain as well as correct facial appearance, bite problems, breathing problems, and speech problems.

Because the jaws grow at different rates throughout adolescence, jaw surgery is usually delayed until after growth ends. For females, this means jaw surgery is delayed until after the patient is 14 to 16 years old; for males, this means jaw surgery is delayed until after the patient is 17 to 21 years old.


TMJ disorders are usually treatable without jaw surgery. However, jaw surgery may be an option for correcting facial appearance as well as problems with bite, breathing, and speech.