Common Questions

Before the surgery:

After the surgery:

Cries for help:

Why should I get jaw surgery?

There are several reasons to undergo jaw surgery:

  • To be able to chew with all your teeth
  • To speak without a lisp
  • To speak without spitting
  • To stop your mouth from hanging open
  • To stop breathing through your mouth and start breathing through your nose
  • To change your appearance (side profile)

These reasons are all explained on the Reasons to Get Jaw Surgery page.

Is jaw surgery painful?

Jaw surgery is usually not painful. This may be difficult to believe, but since your nerves become bruised and numb during the surgery, you don’t actually feel any of the pain. By the time feeling returns to your face, most of the pain is gone.

Granted, you’ll experience a bit of pain when you yawn, sneeze and cough. It’ll also hurt when your jaw spasms (and it will spasm for the first month), but for the most part, you should not experience much pain at all.

How long does it take to recover from jaw surgery?

It will take 90 days (3 months) for a full recovery after jaw surgery. Most of your feeling and energy will be back after 2 months, but it takes a full 90 days for your bone to fuse back together. A full range of motion in your jaw will return depending on how much you’re moving it around, so make sure you follow the exercises your surgeon gives you.

How much does jaw surgery cost?

Jaw surgery costs roughly $5000 in Canada, but that price may differ significantly in other provinces and countries. If your surgery is deemed cosmetic (instead of “medically necessary”), the cost will be higher because you’ll be required to cover the hospital bills. Sadly, patients in the US have seen jaw surgery bills in excess of $50,000.

What should I buy to prepare for recovery?

I recommend picking up the following essentials before your surgery.

  • Food preparation (blend all the things!):
    • Magic Bullet blender — This blender makes perfectly-sized portions for those first few weeks when you’re on a liquid diet. It blends frozen fruit without trouble and you can prepare up to 5 meals at a time using the included cups. (A smaller version with only 2 cups is available for half the price.)
    • Syringes — Your hospital should provide a few syringes, but in case they don’t, you may want to buy a few to make drinking soup easier for the first few days when swelling is the worst.
  • Food (for the liquid diet days):
  • Entertainment (to keep you from going crazy!):
    • Complete series of your favorite TV shows — The first few weeks of recovery are quite boring, unfortunately, so having lots of TV shows and movies to watch will help pass the time. (I recommend Friends and Cheers.) Video games and books can help as well, but note that you will be lacking in energy (both physically and mentally) due to your body being focused on healing.
  • Other useful things:
    • Hot packs — Heating these up in the microwave and resting them on your face will help ease the pain and soothe you to sleep.
    • Medicated lip balm — You’re likely to have cracked lips during the first couple of weeks and this can be quite painful. Lip balm will help with this. (Vaseline works too!)
    • Waterpik flosser — I never used this myself, but many readers said it was the only way they were able to clean their mouth at first. (Once you begin to taste your breath, you’ll understand.)
    • Lots of cloths — Having cloths handy will help during those particularly “drooly” days.

After the surgery

Will I look different after jaw surgery?

You will notice subtle changes in your appearance following jaw surgery. Your overbite/underbite will no longer be present and your cheeks, nose, and chin may take on a different shape as well. My cheeks filled out a lot as a result of my surgery.

How much weight will I lose after jaw surgery?

Most people lose between 5–10 pounds during the first month of their recovery. The general rule of thumb is that you will lose weight until you reach your natural body weight.

Will I experience numbness after jaw surgery?

Yes, you will experience extreme numbness following jaw surgery. During the operation, several nerves in your face and chin have to be moved around. When you move a nerve, it becomes bruised, and when a nerve is bruised, it stops providing sensations, thus giving you that numb feeling (more on this in my Day 20 post).

Will I get all of my feeling back after jaw surgery?

70% of patients regain full feeling, while 30% may experience slightly numb areas in their cheeks, chin and lower lip for the rest of their lives. The feeling you have after 6 months post-op is likely what you’ll live with for the rest of your life.

What can I eat after jaw surgery?

You’ll be on a strict liquid diet following jaw surgery. Buy lots of Boost, Ensure or Carnation supplements and learn to make smoothies, because these will be your staple foods for at least the first 2 weeks. I had to eat them for 8 weeks, but my surgery was a bit more invasive than most. You’ll probably have to administer your food through a syringe for the first week as well.

Once your surgeon gives you permission to start chewing again, you can begin to eat soft foods such as pasta and mashed potatoes. During the weeks following your re-entry into the realm of chewing, you’ll be able to eat whatever is comfortable. Don’t expect to tear into a steak as soon as you’re allowed to chew again, though.

If you have the following implements, you should survive perfectly fine:

  • A reliable blender (this is extremely important, as you’ll be blending almost everything)
  • Smoothie materials (ice cream, yogurt, milk, bananas, strawberries, granola, peanut butter, honey, etc.) — Recipe
  • Soup (you’ll have to blend everything except tomato soup)
  • Ensure, Boost or Carnation (I drank 3 of these per day during my liquid diet phase)
  • Prune juice (you’ll need the fiber in it)
  • Whole milk (you’ll need all the calcium you can get so your bones heal back just as strong as they were before)
  • Water (make sure you drink at least 1 L of water per day; drinking 2 L per day is a much better option)

The most important item on that list is water. If you don’t drink enough water each day, you’ll become dehydrated and sick, and your bowel movements won’t feel good because none of the fiber you’re eating will dissolve into your body.

Cries for help

Help, I’m experiencing pain!

If your pain is chronic (ie. consistent and throbbing), you may have an infection and should schedule a visit with your surgeon just to be safe.

On the other hand, if your pain comes in small bouts, it’s likely your nerves reawakening or your teeth being pulled by the elastics. In this case, just be patient and the pain will subside in due time. If you were prescribed pain medication, that may help as well.

Help, my breath is terrible!

At times, your breath may be indicative of the fact that you are not allowed to brush your teeth or floss during the first several weeks of recovery. To aid in freshening your breath, try gurgling with warm salt water a few times each day. Soon enough, you’ll be given the go-ahead to brush and floss again.

Help, my teeth are no longer touching!

An open bite is a common problem following jaw surgery. Fear not, however, because your teeth will naturally grow until they encounter opposition (in the form of your other jaw), so this problem will slowly correct itself over time.

Help, my jaw movement is not returning!

If you have been given the green light to resume eating regular food, but the movement in your jaw doesn’t seem to be returning, try whistling and chewing gum each day. Whistling will help to break up scar tissue, while chewing gum will stretch the muscles in your jaw.

Help, I don’t look like myself anymore!

This is perhaps the most common fear people have following jaw surgery. Remember that swelling takes a minimum of 3 months to go away, so try to avoid judging your appearance until that point.

Also, keep in mind that you are your own worst critic because you’ve been seeing your face in the mirror every single day for most of your life. While the subtle changes in your appearance seem drastic to you, most people will not even notice that your face changed shape.

Check out my recovery timeline »

597 Comments on “Common Questions”

  1. marilyn September 30, 2015 at 1:08 am #

    My carltlidge tip of my nose feels very soft? Anyone else?

  2. Shenell September 25, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    Hi, I’m having jaw surgery in two weeks time, but mine is to move my jaw slightly to the other side of my face by a little, it’s not your usual surgery of an over bite or under bite. Do you think everything on your page will be exactly the same like the healing process?

  3. Ashley September 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    Stephen and Stephen’s Mom, I had double jaw surgery five weeks ago and only spent one night in hospital, it’s fairly normal I think. I also had to have my palate widened. I could’ve had it done surgically but in the end it was easier that I had that done through orthodontics. The end result is the same though. In terms of eating, especially cheaply, I found home made soups very good, as well as smoothies. As Graham’s blog said, adding peanut butter to heavy cream and milk and ice cream is a good idea to get some liquid calories too. Hope it goes well.

  4. Spencer September 2, 2015 at 3:23 am #

    I had MMA for my sleep apnea. I recovered relatively quickly and was on solid (soft foods) after only a few weeks and back to work after 5 weeks. Anyway 3 months later, I’m still in continous acheing pain in my upper and (even more in) lower teeth, they feel like someone is trying to twist and pull them out with pliers all day long.

    Secondly in my left jaw I wake up with jaw ache every day, and think I’m gritting my teeth at night subconsiously to compensate for the third problem.

    My lower and upper jaw teeth don’t align, and only the first molar on the right hand actually touches when I bite. The only way to compensate is to slide my lower jaw sideways somewhat.

    Another side effect of this jaw mis-alignment is that the joint / cartilage in my left jaw socket is “crunching” whenever I open/close. It sounds like someone is grinding up marbles inside my face.

    I spoke to my maxillofacial surgeon and he told me that my jaw is still going through “adaptation”, and it’s perfectly normal. He said that my teeth not touching was perfectly acceptable, and my lateral misalignment was not important, because I would adapt to having to bite slightly sideways even though doing so causes me acheing now.

    Anyone else here ever experienced anything similar?

  5. Christina August 22, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    I just had double jaw surgery and I was only on a liquid diet for a week, however I did lose 7 pounds in that week. I also got bruising down my neck to my chest is that okay? And is there any way to help the swelling go down more? I’ve also noticed many changes I think if anyone is getting surgery it’s definitely a good thing it does suck very much but the changes I’m seeing already in my smile to my nose and chin are great and I just can’t wait till I’m properly healed.

  6. Stephen August 20, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    I am writing on behalf of my 17 year old son.He is going to have his double jaw surgery on Sept 23 .His doctor is using the new 3-d imaging during his operation.We go the first of Sept to find out more infor. and all,I plan to spend the night at the hospital with him,the doctor says he can go home the next day.Is that normal? His upper jaw was smaller than his lower jaw,and he had to have his palate stretched which he said opened his ears and helped him hear better.he also had 10 teeth remained as he had to many for his mouth.Because of the 3-d imaging being rather new we have to pay about $ 900 out of pocket.He knows the operation will be painful ,but he’s in pain now,so he knows it will help him feel better.I’ve been stocking up and freezing kale ,fruit of various types to be ready…..I’ve heard about 2 weeks worth 3x’s a day.Should I plan on more,we are rather low,low income and I will have to plan ahead for the food budget.Any information would be helpful at this point in the game.

    Thanks, Stephen’s Mom.

  7. Cyn Turner August 19, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    I just had double jaw surgery 4 weeks ago and I have good day and bad days. I am so tired of the liquid diet and eating mashed potatoes and oatmeal. The surgeon said I could eat scrambled eggs and pasta. I struggled with the scrambled eggs because I can’t chew and I am tired of mashing everything on the roof of my mouth.
    I don’t have pain but the needle and pin prick sensation is the worst. The facial swelling is better but there are days where it seems to return and won’t let go. So ice packs are my best friend.
    My surgeon said that I will be off of work at least 12 weeks. So I have picked up walking and experimenting with soups.
    I have started a list of foods I cannot wait to eat when my healing is complete such as steak, shrimp, ribs, hamburgers, hotdogs, salad, fried chicken and the list goes on!

  8. Elle August 17, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    Hi, I had double jaw surgery about a month ago. It is definitely a long and rough recovery, but so far for me it has all been worth it. After a month, almost all of the swelling is gone, my splint is out, I can eat very soft foods, and most importantly I can breath better than I have ever been able to out of my nose. My surgery was about six hours and I was in the hospital for five days. The first two weeks are the hardest, but once you get through the surgery (the scariest part!) you feel ready to conquer the recovery.
    Jon, I noticed a difference in my hearing too. After the first week for me it went away. I think it is from the congestion and pressure created from being operated on near that area. I felt extremely congested and every time I would swallow it would put pressure on my ears. I could barely have the TV volume on because sound felt overwhelming to my ears. It has gotten so much better though.
    Kavitha, do you have a splint in? I had the surgery a month ago and am still getting used to speaking properly. In the beginning it was very hard for me to speak, and very hard for people to understand me. Because the jaw is moved during surgery, I think the rest of the mouth has to get used to speaking in the new position. My speech has gotten a lot better, but I am still working on getting back to where I used to be. I also was very very congested, but hopefully that will clear up soon for you.
    I hope this helps, please feel free to ask me any questions.

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Note from Graham — After 4+ years of responding to each and every comment, question, and experience shared in this community, I must humbly step down from this task due to other life commitments. I've provided answers to the most common questions here (last updated July 20, 2014). Please continue sharing your stories in these comments for the benefit of future patients, and thank you so much for joining me on this journey. Cheers!

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