Radiographs and photographs are taken to help in the planning and there is software to predict the shape of the patient's face after surgery, which is useful both for planning and for explaining the surgery to the patient and the patient's family. Advanced software can allow the patient to see the predicted results of the surgery.
The main goals of orthognathic surgery are to achieve a correct bite, an aesthetic face and an enlarged airway. While correcting the bite is important, if the face is not considered the resulting bony changes might lead to an unaesthetic result. Orthognathic surgery is also available as a very successful treatment (90-100%) for obstructive sleep apnea. Great care needs to be taken during the planning phase to maximize airway patency.
Cutting the bone is called osteotomy and in case of performing the surgery on the two jaws at the same time it is called a bi-maxillary osteotomy (two jaws bone cutting) or a maxillomandibular advancement. The bone cutting is traditionally done using special electrical saws and burs, and manual chisels. Recently a machine that can make the bone cuts using ultra-sound waves has been introduced; this is yet to be used on a wide scale. The maxilla can be adjusted using a " Lefort I" level osteotomy (most common). Sometimes the midface can be mobilised as well by using a Lefort II, or Lefort III osteotomy. These techniques are utilized extensively for children suffering from certain craniofacial abnormalities such as Crouzon syndrome. The jaws will be wired together (inter-maxillary fixation) using stainless steel wires during the surgery to insure the correct re-positioning of the bones. This in most cases is released before the patient wakes up. If the surgeon is not satisfied with the anchoring, he may elect to keep the jaws wired together. This is a considerably recent modification as the usage of the modern types of bone plates reduced the need for wiring the jaws together for a few weeks after surgery as was the case before. Some surgeons prefer to wire the jaws shut anyway to ensure proper healing of the bones, but they are becoming more of a minority among orthognathic surgeons.
If the surgery involved the upper jaw, then the surgery could have an effect on the shape of the patient's nose. This can be minimised by careful planning and accurate execution of the surgical plan. Sometimes, this is considered part of the benefit.
Root canal (some teeth have more than one root canal) treatments are sometimes required after surgery, especially when the surgery involves a maxillary osteotomy. In recent years, techniques have been created that may help reduce the need for root canal surgery, however, it is still a common complication that can occur.
For some surgeries, pain may be minimal due to minor nerve damage and lack of feeling. Doctors will prescribe pain medication and prophylactic antibiotics to the patient. Many doctors recommend that the patient rent a specialized machine that circulates cold water through pads on the face to help the swelling go down. Most of the swelling will disappear in the first few weeks, but some may remain for a few months.
The surgeon will see the patient for check-ups frequently, to check on the healing, check for infection, and to make sure nothing has moved. The frequency of visits will decrease over time. If the surgeon is unsatisfied with the way the bone is mending, he may recommend additional surgery to rectify whatever may have shifted. It is very important to avoid any chewing until the surgeon is satisfied with the healing.