Choosing Your Orthognathic Surgeon

Your dentist, orthodontist, or physician has recommended orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery to improve your facial proportions, or to correct your bite, your facial pain, your sleep apnea, or another concern. You may have been recommended to a specific doctor in your area, or a doctor who accepts your type of insurance. You know enough to be certain that you want the right doctor to do your surgery, but you are not sure how to know if you are in the right place.

You want not just an excellent surgical result; you want to minimize the post-surgical discomfort, reduce any time in the hospital, minimize the potential for any complications, and achieve all of this at a fee that works within your budget and hopefully maximizes your insurance benefit.

Orthognathic surgery is a phrase that includes a group of procedures used to alter the relationship between the between the jawbone or mandible, the facial bones, the base of the skull, the soft tissues of the face, and the anatomical structures of the neck, throat and airway.

For most of the history of this type of surgery, the process included the expectation of many hours in the operating room, a prolonged hospitalization after surgery, and many weeks of recovery before returning to work and other normal activities. For many patients, this is still the norm, but for others the experience may be much less difficult. For this reason, it is vital that you participate in the process of selecting the surgeon who will provide your care.

According to the standards for accreditation for training programs in oral and maxillofacial surgery, all surgeons in the specialty must be trained at a minimal level to perform orthognathic surgery. Very few however, perform these types of procedures on a frequent basis.

Reasons Most Surgeons Rarely Perform Orthognathic Surgery

  • Compensation from insurance companies has declined
  • Jaw surgery is complex and time consuming
  • Procedures rarely performed result in more complications
  • Other procedures are less stressful and more profitable

The important point for the patients to be aware of is the need to take an active roll in selecting the surgeon who will perform his/her surgery. The doctor, who may be endorsed by your insurance company, or even the one recommended by your orthodontist, may or may not be the best surgeon to help you attain the result you desire.

What Are The Characteristics I Should Seek?

  • Experience
    • As indicated above, many surgeons perform corrective jaw surgery only sporadically. This area of surgical expertise is exceptionally complex, and unless a doctor performs these procedures routinely the entire process of completing the surgery from planning to completion will be more challenging. Common sense dictates that one will be better at performing a skill you do every day than something you do rarely.
  • Focus of practice
    • Most surgeons of all specialties focus on a limited portion of the full scope of their chosen profession. Only a very small percentage of oral and maxillofacial surgeons focus specifically on orthognathic surgery as a central part of their practice.
  • Team of professionals
    • Surgeons who perform orthognathic surgery very frequently usually cultivate a supporting team of professionals who are expert in every aspect of the process. This includes specialists in maximizing your insurance benefit, auxiliary staff organizing and scheduling your visits with the doctor and collecting records, x-rays, models, etc, and surgical assistants and nurses who know and understand the procedures, how to assist with the surgery, and how to best care for patients after surgery.
  • Facility
    • Orthognathic surgeons focusing on corrective jaw surgery as a primary interest will typically work primarily with one facility that is dedicated to supporting the surgeon in delivering excellent care. Facilities that experience only the occasional orthognathic surgery cannot be intimately familiar with all the aspects of patient care.
  • Technology
    • Technology in the form of highly sophisticated imaging equipment, cone beam cat scan technology, and software specifically designed to assess the facial skeleton, plan surgical movements, and fabricate stereolithographic surgical guides, have transformed the performance of corrective jaw surgery. The ability to plan appropriate movements, predict the outcome of surgery, and accurately translate the plan for surgery into action, has been improved dramatically by technology.

Patients are often hesitant to question a doctor for fear of offending or appearing rude. A surgeon with your best interest in mind should however welcome your questions regarding experience level, procedures, etc. If a doctor is resistant to polite questions, this is an indication you are with the wrong doctor.

Key Questions for a Prospective Orthognathic Surgeon

  • How many orthognathic surgical procedures have you performed?
  • How many in the last year?
  • What percentage of your practice is dedicated to this type of surgery?
  • Is your team specifically focused on training to assist with this surgery?
  • How long is the typical operating time for you to perform my procedure?
  • Do your patients need to be hospitalized after this surgery? How long?
  • Can I speak to some of your former patients about their experience?
  • One might also ask to interview a key staff member and ask similar questions.

The surgeons at the Surgical Arts Centre, over decades of experience, have worked to refine the performance of this type of surgery and improve not just the ultimate outcome, but also the overall experience for the patient. By paying close attention to all of the variables, the outcome provides a much more pleasant experience for the patient, fewer complications, and a more predictable result. We are honored to have patients frequently travel great distances to seek our specialized care.

For More Information

If you or a loved one struggle with any of the indications mentioned above, the surgeons at the Surgical Arts Centre have a combined fifty plus years of experience performing corrective jaw surgery and would be happy to discuss your treatment options. Call today to schedule a consultation. (406) 549-6600

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