What are the risks associated with orthognathic surgery?


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Dentist Melbourne
Melbourne's Home of Dentistry

orthognathic surgeryAll surgical procedures carry some degree of risk. Despite the highest standards of surgical practice, complications are possible.

It is not usual for a doctor to dwell at length on every possible side effect or rare, serious complications. However, it is important that you have enough information to weigh up the benefits and risks of surgery.

Most people having orthognathic surgery will not have complications, but if you have concerns about possible complications, discuss them with your surgeon.

The following possible complications are intended to inform you, not to alarm you.

Reaction to anaesthetic

After general anaesthesia, difficulty swallowing, a sore dry throat, and generalised muscle pain may occur. These usually disappear by the following day.

Vomiting may occur after a general anaesthetic and for one to two days afterwards. Medication can treat this.


All surgery has a risk of infection, however risk is low with orthognathic surgery.

Antibiotics are often prescribed before surgery to prevent infection. Is infection occurs, symptoms start at about 10 to 14 days, with pain, swelling and a bad-tasting discharge in the mouth.

If infection or bleeding occurs, call your surgeon immediately.


Prominent scarring of intraoral incisions is unusual. In most patients, such incisions heal well and quickly.

Pain management

Pain and discomfort depend on the complexity of the surgery. Discomfort is worst during the first few days after surgery and then should gradually subside.

Strong painkillers are provided. The need for painkillers usually stops around seven to 10 days after surgery.


Swelling is normal. Maximum swelling occurs 48 hours after surgery and subsides over three to four weeks. Most swelling subsides after 14 days. The more complex the case and difficult the surgery, the greater the swelling.


Bruising of the face, neck and chest may occur as the swelling subsides. It usually resolves in seven to 10 days.

Loss of sensation

Sensation is impaired because nerves are moved and may be injured during surgery. The chin, lower lip, upper lip, cheeks and palate are the most commonly affected.

In most patients, sensation returns to normal within three to six months. Tingling and itching is a good sign that feeling is returning.

Avoid biting your lips or placing hot food to drink next to the numb areas until return of sensation is complete. 

Contact us if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Temperature higher than 38°C

  • Severe pain, redness, bleeding or swelling of the operated site

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Persistent bleeding

  • Any concerns you have regarding your surgery. 

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*The contents of this blog post are of a general nature only and may not apply to your specific circumstances. As every person is different we always recommend that you visit a qualified dental practitioner to obtain tailored dental advice to suit your own specific needs.

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