Upper jaw expansion surgery

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A solution for a small or narrow upper jaw

Upper jaw expansion surgery, also called SAME (Surgically Assisted Maxillary Expansion) is often recommended because you have a small or narrow upper jaw. It’s used, together with orthodontic treatment  to make more room in your upper jaw for your teeth.

The surgery is usually planned in conjunction with your orthodontist.

How upper jaw expansion surgery is performed

Dr van Mourik will perform your upper jaw surgery in an accredited private hospital. The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic administered by an anaesthetist.

The procedure involves cutting through your upper jaw and inserting an expansion appliance. Approximately 3 days after the expansion appliance is inserted, the active expansion process begins and your upper jaw is gradually widened over a period of weeks. Once the appropriate amount of expansion is achieved, the expansion device is left in your mouth to allow the bone to heal.

Once your healing is complete, orthodontic treatment can be commenced.

Recovery after upper jaw expansion surgery

Hospital stay: After surgery you’ll most likely need to spend a night in hospital.

Pain relief: To control pain while you’re in hospital, you’ll be given intravenous analgesia, prescribed by the anaesthetist, which you can self-administer by pressing a button. Usually by 24 hours after the operation, pain tablets such a Nurofen® or Panadiene® will keep you comfortable.

Work/school: You’ll need to allow 1 to 2 weeks off.

Stitches: Dissolving stitches are used in most cases. They gradually dissolve over 1 to 2 weeks.

Diet: A soft food diet is recommended for first 2 weeks after surgery (with no straw).

Follow up care:  Dr van Mourik and your orthodontist will want to see you periodically to monitor the jaw expansion. While the device is in place, you need to maintain careful oral hygiene with soft brushing and salt water rinses.

Dr Van Mourik will give you detailed post-operative instructions during your initial consultation. To maximise your chance of making a quick recovery without complications, please pay careful attention to these instructions. General information can be found on the Post-op and Patient Care page.

Possible complications

It’s unusual to have complications with upper jaw expansion surgery when you have a skilled oral and maxillofacial surgeon to perform the procedure. However, all surgeries have some potential risks and complications and for upper jaw expansion they include:

  • Numbness and tingling caused by nerve injury
  • Infection
  • Changes in your nasal cavity
  • Aggravation of your tempromandibular (jaw) joint.

Dr van Mourik is a highly experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon. He explains things clearly and he’s a good listener, so do ask him questions about your upper jaw expansion surgery and tell him about any concerns you have — he’ll take the time to answer you and manage your concerns sensitively.

Learn more about upper jaw expansion surgery in our comprehensive guide

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