If you were born with an underbite, which means your upper jaw sits further back than your lower jaw, then your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon to evaluate whether surgical correction is a good idea. Usually, if you do have surgical correction for an underbite, you do not do so until you are done growing. And while many people do benefit from surgical correction for their underbite, it is not for every patient. Some patients are better off avoiding surgery and managing their underbite with more conservative therapies, like orthodontics.
So how do you know whether you should undergo surgery to correct an underbite? First, you should talk to your dental surgeon and get their opinion. Second, you should consider the pros and cons below.
Pro: Surgery will improve your outward look.
If you rely solely on orthodontics to deal with your underbite, the position of your teeth will be adjusted, but your actual jaw position won't be altered much, if at all. Surgery, on the other hand, will aim to move and realign your entire jaw. This results in an altering of your actual facial structure, not just of your teeth. Surgery is therefore a good choice if you no longer want to look like you have an underbite, outwardly.
Con: Surgery has a long recovery time.
This is not a minor surgery. It may involve removing bone, placing bone grafts, and even fracturing and re-positioning bone. Although the risk is pretty low, assuming you have an experienced dental surgeon work on you, the recovery time can be long and tough to navigate. You won't be able to move your jaw for a couple of weeks, which means you will need to eat a mostly liquid diet. After that, you'll have to stick to soft foods. It can be three months or more before you're back to mostly normal.
Pro: Surgery is a "one and done" approach.
If you opt not to have surgery, you will forever be dealing with your underbite. You may need an orthodontic correction now, some caps on teeth that suffered abnormal wear a few years from now, and so forth. The alternative is to have surgery once and be done with the whole problem.
Con: Surgery is not always covered by dental insurance.
While some dental insurance policies will cover underbite correction surgery, many consider it to be a cosmetic procedure. Your dentist can petition your insurance company and argue that the surgery is necessary for you to eat and speak properly, but that process takes time, and results are not guaranteed. This procedure can cost tens of thousands of dollars if you have to pay out-of-pocket.
If your insurance will cover it and you can dedicate three months to recovery, underbite correction surgery is a very good choice. Talk to a dental surgeon, like the Center for Oral & Facial Surgery of Memphis PLLC, to learn more.