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Jaw Surgery vs Braces: Which would be best for you?

Julia Willcox

Written by Julia Willcox

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Braces can help solve a variety of issues involving the teeth, jaw, and bite. They are an excellent option for straightening the teeth and can help correct some cases of overbite, underbite, and crossbite. However, braces are best suited for mild to moderate corrections, and in more complex cases, more invasive measures may need to be taken. A step above braces in terms of ability to treat complex cases, jaw alignment surgery can work in conjunction with braces (or sometimes on its own) to help improve an individual’s bite and over function of the mouth and jaw.

Main differences between Jaw Surgery and Braces

There are a couple of main points to touch on in terms of the differences between jaw surgery vs. braces.

The most glaring and obvious difference is how invasive each procedure is. While braces do require that metal brackets and wires are affixed to your teeth for a set amount of time and require routine maintenance, they are clearly not as invasive of a procedure as jaw surgery.
Jaw surgery requires anesthesia and a recovery timeline that is not associated with getting braces.

Two additional main points to keep in mind are cost and overall treatment time, which tend to differ between these two types of treatment.

Jaw Surgery

Corrective jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, is a procedure that is carried out to restructure the jaw bones and allow them to function the way that they should be able to. It tends to be preferred over braces when the case is more complex or when braces might be able to alleviate the problem at hand but not completely resolve a misalignment of the bones. Jaw surgery is intended to restore full function of the mouth and jaw and can also result in an improved appearance of the facial structure as the jawbones are repositioned. To see more of what exactly to expect with jaw surgery, it can be helpful to look at jaw surgery before and after pictures.

difference between jaw surgery vs braces

However, this procedure is not without some form of risk. Like any surgery, jaw surgery carries the risks of issues surrounding the anesthesia that is used, abnormal bleeding, and the potential for scarring following surgery. However, since jaw surgery is carried out nearly entirely within the mouth, it is unlikely that any normal surgical scars would end up being visible. For jaw surgery recovery, patients can expect that returning to normal could end up taking several months. During the time period following surgery, some patients may end up continuing their treatment with braces, as these two forms of treatment are often done in conjunction with each other.

Maxillomandibular Advancement surgery. Medically accurate dental 3D illustration.


Braces are a well-known and trusted form of orthodontic treatment. They utilize metal brackets and wires to reposition the teeth over time, giving patients an improved smile and sometimes improving the alignment of the jaw. In addition to the essential components of metal brackets and wires, braces also sometimes include rubber bands that attach to the brackets to provide additional tension and facilitate more movement for teeth straightening.

This form of treatment is preferred over orthognathic surgery, more commonly known as jaw surgery when the problem is being corrected is mild to moderate.

Braces offer patients the benefits of straightened teeth and, in some cases, an improved bite, all while avoiding anesthesia and overnight hospital stays- two things that you can count on when undergoing jaw surgery. Although individuals who are undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces must periodically follow up with an orthodontist at their office to ensure that they are making appropriate progress, the treatment is otherwise relatively hands-off. Once the adjustments to the brackets and the wires are made at the in-person appointments, the actual progress with the movement of the teeth and the jaw is made gradually on a daily basis. However, this process is rather lengthy, and it can take several years to reach the end of treatment.

Jaw Surgery vs Braces: Which would be best for you? 1

Other than the duration of the treatment itself, there is no true “recovery” period for braces when used to various current types of teeth alignment. Once the braces are removed, the only thing left for patients to do is make sure that they wear their retainer for the prescribed amount of time. A retainer is meant to maintain the progress that is produced by treatment with braces, and neglecting to wear a retainer as instructed can result in the teeth and bite reverting to their old, less than ideal positions.

While undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces, it is essential to remember to visit your dentist for regular checkups. It is easy for food particles to get caught in between your teeth, the brackets, and the wires. While you should be paying close attention to this yourself and making sure that you are constantly thoroughly cleaning your teeth, the dentist will be able to more thoroughly clean your teeth, ensuring that your teeth and gums remain healthy and free of any problems. An orthodontist vs. dentist have slightly different areas of expertise, and seeing a dentist in addition to an orthodontist is essential for routine maintenance of oral health.

What treatment is best for you?

Braces and jaw surgery each have their own merits and are suited to treat certain cases. While some cases of misaligned teeth could be treated with either option, there is typically one option that will be a slightly better form of treatment than the other. Both treatment options can be incredibly effective; it is simply a matter of which one is the best choice for a particular issue.

Type of MisalignmentPreferred Treatment
Open bite, overbite, crossbite It can be treated with either braces or jaw surgery, depending on the severity of the case. Overbite surgery or other surgeries for bite can also be done in conjunction with braces.
Receding lower jawJaw surgery: needed to physically change the shape of the jaw
Protruding lower jawIt can be treated with either braces or jaw surgery, but moderate to more severe cases may have better outcomes with jaw surgery.

Jaw Surgery vs Braces: Which is more affordable?

Braces are hands down less expensive than undergoing jaw surgery. You can expect to spend around $6,000 for braces, but jaw surgery could end up costing you approximately $40,000. This is in large part thanks due to the hospital-related costs associated with jaw surgery. Between the cost of anesthesia and the hospital stay itself, charges can add up quickly.

Type of MisalignmentAverage Cost
Jaw surgery$40,000

Are there other alternatives to orthognathic surgery or braces?

If you feel like neither orthognathic surgery nor braces are well-suited to fix your problem, there are a couple of alternatives to consider to straighten teeth without braces or surgery.

alternatives to orthognatic surgery

If you are concerned with the appearance of braces, but this treatment otherwise appeals to you, Invisalign or other brands of clear orthodontic aligners could be a great option to check out. Damon braces and lingual braces are two other options for treatments that are similar to traditional braces but are not as visible.

If you are looking for an alternative to orthodontic surgery for more severe cases of misalignment, unfortunately, there is not much else that can be done. Consulting with your orthodontists or an oral maxillofacial surgeon would likely provide you with the clearest answer regarding whether or not a specific case would fall into this category of severity.

To sum it all up

When all is said and done, there is not always a clear answer as to whether braces vs. surgery would be the best for you. As a general rule of thumb, mild to moderate cases of misalignment, especially when the jaw is not as involved in the alignment issue, can usually be successfully treated with braces. More severe cases will likely need treatment with jaw surgery.

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