Orthognathic Surgery Risks: Potential Complications and How to Minimize Them

Orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery, is a complex procedure performed to address severe jaw misalignment or skeletal discrepancies. While orthognathic surgery offers numerous benefits in terms of improved function, aesthetics, and overall oral health, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and complications associated with the procedure. In this article, we will discuss some of the common risks involved in orthognathic surgery and provide insights on how to minimize them for a safe and successful outcome.


Infection is a potential risk following any surgical procedure, including orthognathic surgery. To minimize the risk of infection, it is crucial to follow your surgeon’s pre-operative and post-operative instructions carefully. This includes maintaining good oral hygiene, taking prescribed antibiotics as directed, and attending all follow-up appointments to monitor your healing progress.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage is another potential complication of orthognathic surgery. The nerves responsible for sensation and movement in the face and mouth may be affected during the surgery, leading to temporary or, in rare cases, permanent numbness, tingling, or altered sensation. While nerve damage is a potential risk, skilled surgeons take great care to minimize the likelihood of such complications. It is important to discuss any concerns regarding nerve damage with your surgeon during the consultation phase.

Jaw Relapse

Jaw relapse refers to the shifting or moving of the jaw after the surgery. This can occur if the bones do not fuse properly or if the patient does not adhere to the post-operative instructions. To minimize the risk of jaw relapse, it is important to wear any prescribed orthodontic appliances, such as braces or retainers, as directed. Additionally, follow all post-operative guidelines provided by your surgeon, including dietary restrictions, oral hygiene practices, and activity limitations.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

Orthognathic surgery involves repositioning the jaws, which can affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) function. Some patients may experience temporary or, in rare cases, long-term TMJ-related issues such as jaw clicking, discomfort, or difficulty opening and closing the mouth. Your surgeon will evaluate your TMJ function before the surgery and take appropriate measures to minimize the risk of TMJ disorders. In some cases, additional treatments or therapies may be recommended to manage any TMJ-related symptoms.

Bleeding and Hematoma

Bleeding and hematoma formation are potential risks associated with any surgical procedure, including orthognathic surgery. It is normal to experience some bleeding immediately after the surgery, but excessive or prolonged bleeding should be reported to your surgeon. To minimize the risk of bleeding and hematoma formation, follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding wound care, oral hygiene, and avoiding activities that may increase blood flow to the surgical site, such as vigorous exercise.

Anesthesia Risks

Orthognathic surgery is performed under general anesthesia, which carries its own set of risks. These risks can include allergic reactions, respiratory problems, or adverse reactions to the anesthesia medications. Prior to the surgery, your surgeon will review your medical history, conduct a thorough evaluation, and coordinate with the anesthesiologist to ensure your safety during the procedure. It is important to disclose any known allergies or medical conditions to your surgical team.

Psychosocial and Emotional Impact

Orthognathic surgery is a major surgical procedure that can have a significant impact on a patient’s physical appearance and self-esteem. Some individuals may experience psychosocial and emotional challenges during the recovery period. It is important to have realistic expectations and maintain open communication with your surgeon.