Jaw Surgery: What are the Risks Involved?

Jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, is a common procedure used to correct a variety of dental and skeletal abnormalities. While jaw surgery can be a highly effective treatment option for many patients, it is not without risks. Below are some of the potential risks and complications associated with jaw surgery.

Bleeding and Infection

As with any surgical procedure, bleeding and infection are potential risks associated with jaw surgery. While bleeding is a normal part of any surgical procedure, excessive bleeding can lead to complications such as blood clots or hematomas.

Infection can occur if bacteria enter the surgical site, either during or after the procedure. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed before or after the surgery to help prevent infection. However, if an infection does occur, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Nerve Damage

Jaw surgery involves working near several important nerves in the face, including the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for sensation in the face, and the facial nerve, which controls facial movements. Damage to these nerves can result in numbness, tingling, or even paralysis of the face.

While nerve damage is a rare complication of jaw surgery, it is a potential risk that should be discussed with your surgeon prior to the procedure. In some cases, nerve damage may be temporary and resolve on its own over time. However, in more severe cases, surgery or other treatments may be required to restore normal nerve function.

Bone Healing Problems

Jaw surgery involves cutting and repositioning the bones of the jaw and face. While bone healing is a natural process, it can be affected by a variety of factors, including age, overall health, and the extent of the surgery.

In some cases, bone healing may be delayed or incomplete, which can result in complications such as infection, implant failure, or malocclusion. Patients who smoke or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes may be at a higher risk for bone healing problems.

Changes in Bite or Facial Appearance

Jaw surgery is often performed to correct abnormalities in the bite or facial structure. However, in some cases, changes in bite or facial appearance can occur as a result of the surgery. In some cases, these changes may be intentional and part of the treatment plan. 

However, in other cases, they may be unexpected or unwanted. It is important for patients to discuss their treatment goals and expectations with their surgeon prior to the procedure to ensure that they are on the same page.

Airway Complications

Jaw surgery can sometimes result in airway complications, particularly if the surgery involves the upper jaw. In some cases, the airway may become obstructed, which can lead to difficulty breathing or even a medical emergency.

Patients who are at a higher risk for airway complications, such as those with sleep apnea or other respiratory conditions, may require additional monitoring and management during and after the surgery.

Psychological Effects

Jaw surgery can have a significant impact on a person’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. While many patients report feeling more confident and satisfied with their appearance after the surgery, others may experience psychological effects such as depression or anxiety.

It is important for patients to have realistic expectations and understand that jaw surgery is not a magic solution to all of their concerns. Counseling or therapy may be helpful for patients who are struggling with psychological effects following the surgery.


Jaw surgery is a complex procedure that can involve a variety of risks and potential complications. However, with proper planning and management, many patients can achieve successful outcomes and improve their overall quality of life. If you are considering jaw surgery, be sure to discuss the potential risks and benefits with your surgeon and ask any questions or concerns that you may have.