Technology helps transform someday-surgeon’s smile

Turkey and ham are great for holidays, but Josh Koerner prefers steak. Thankfully, the Champaign 20-year-old can enjoy his favorite food—minus the part where his mom, Cathy, puts beef in the blender.

In July, Josh had bite-alignment surgery to correct the severe underbite that two rounds of orthodontics couldn’t resolve. His misaligned jaw and teeth kept him from biting and chewing normally and from enjoying his medium-rare ribeye.

“We all hoped my bite would correct itself over time, but it was actually getting worse,” Josh said.

Craig S. Norbutt, DMD, MD, and his Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery partners provide facial reconstruction following accidents, as well as corrective jaw procedures for developmental deformities. Serving about 15,000 patients per year, the physicians perform the region’s most advanced procedures to treat conditions of the face and mouth and are on-call 24/7 for patients just like Josh.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Cathy said. “Dr. Norbutt called the night before surgery just to talk with Josh, to make sure he was OK and ready.

While bite-alignment surgery can mean considerable recovery time, Josh and his family felt prepared and cared for along the way—from three-dimensional imaging to show the intricate procedures Norbutt would perform to how the surgery would transform Josh’s appearance.

“Dr. Norbutt is so knowledgeable,” Cathy said. “And when he delved into all the models, we understood his incredible level of preciseness.”

Precision is key.

“Computerized virtual surgical planning allows us to evaluate the patient’s jaw deformity in much greater detail,” Norbutt said. “We are then able to simulate the proposed surgical procedure in three dimensions before taking the patient to the operating room. This allows for greater precision in our treatment planning and improvement in surgical results, which directly impacts our patients.”

The positive impact on some patients’ self-esteem parallels surgery’s medical benefits.

“Many of our patients who undergo corrective jaw surgery are adolescents or young adults. At the completion of treatment, many are more self-confident because they feel better about themselves. This can be carried over to all aspects of their lives,” Norbutt said, adding, “The smiles on the ‘after’ photos say it all.”

The aim of the process is a complete package.

“We often develop a long-term relationship with both the patient and their family during this process. It is very rewarding to be able to correct these jaw deformities and restore a balanced dental relationship,” Norbutt said. “At the completion of treatment, our patients are able to function better and are typically very satisfied with the changes in their overall facial appearance.”

Cathy appreciated Norbutt putting her family in touch with other patients so they knew what to expect.

For the first couple weeks, Josh, who spent just one night in the hospital after surgery, could only eat shakes and pureed food—including steak and mashed potatoes—through a syringe.

“I wanted to pack him full of protein and calories to keep him strong and help with wound healing,” said Cathy, a former dietitian.

Josh experienced some facial numbness as he recovered, but felt like himself a few weeks after surgery and was back to his normal routine in six weeks. As he healed, he was nervous to try biting again, but soon found he was able chomp a carrot with his front teeth for the first time like most people.

“For the first couple weeks, most people feel pretty beat up, but when they’re no longer having a hard time eating, breathing or sleeping, they say it’s worth it, that they’d do it again,” Dr. Norbutt said.

A Parkland Pathway student and Carle phlebotomist, Josh is interested in becoming a general surgeon.

Norbutt, Jonathan S. Bailey, DMD, MD, FACS, and Stephen R. Sabol, DDS are certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and educate future surgeons through Carle’s American Dental Association-approved residency program.

For more information about procedures like Josh’s, please visit Carle Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery