Recovery Timeline

Following is a brief timeline of important events regarding recovery from double jaw surgery. If you only had a single jaw operated on, your recovery will be substantially quicker than this.

Keep in mind that every person recovers at a different pace, and also that every surgeon has their own agenda during the recovery process. This is simply the sequence of important events that took place during my personal recovery.

Before the surgery

To prepare for your recovery, I recommend picking up the following essentials.

  • 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.

Day 0 (Surgery)

  • You’ll be eating/drinking through a syringe
  • You’ll be unable to sleep very much
  • You may be freezing all night long due to the ice packs wrapped around your face
  • You’ll feel extremely weak
  • You won’t be able to talk
  • You will drool constantly (but you’ll have the suction tube in the hospital to take care of that)
  • Lots of blood will be churning up inside your nose, mouth and throat
  • Your jaw will randomly spasm (and it will be painful)

Day 1

  • Swelling will begin

Day 3

  • Swelling will peak
  • Your bowels will start working again around this time

Day 5

  • Feeling will begin to return to parts of your face
  • Swelling will start to decrease

Day 7 (1 week)

  • You’ll be able to move your mouth a bit easier, so your talking will become more understandable
  • At your 1-week appointment, you’ll be able to brush your teeth, both inside and out (and it will feel amazing)

Day 10

  • Drooling won’t be as rampant any longer
  • You’ll regain slight control over your lips

Day 14 (2 weeks)

  • Most of the swelling will be gone
  • You’ll be able to start drinking from a cup (although it may be messy at first)
  • You can probably remove a few of the elastics clamping your teeth together, so talking will become infinitely more simple
  • Sleeping through the night should no longer be a problem

Day 15

  • Your elastics will start snapping daily, due to your rapid increase in speaking

Day 18

  • Your breath will become bearable again, due to the fact that you’ve been eating different foods and brushing more often

Day 21 (3 weeks)

  • Your energy will start to come back. Take advantage of it! Go for walks and take your bike out for a spin.

Day 22

  • You’ll be receiving substantial feeling back in your upper lip and cheeks. Your nose, lower lip and chin, however, will remain completely numb.

Day 28 (4 weeks)

  • Talking will hardly be an issue any longer. If you have a splint/bite plate in, you’ll sound ridiculous, but people will be able to understand you.
  • Your desire to be social and spend time with people will return in full force. Make sure you take advantage of it, and remember that your friends are not judging you.

Day 29

  • Feeling will begin to return to your lower lip and chin. That feeling will come in the form of pins and needles, but you’ll appreciate it regardless. If no feeling has returned to these parts yet, don’t worry. Surgeons say that it make take up to 90 days for feeling to begin coming back.

Day 31 (1 month)

  • If your elastics are off, you’ll be able to speak quite well by now
  • You won’t drool or spill any longer while eating

Day 32

  • You’ll have most of your normal energy back by now
  • You’ll begin to feel like you’re ready to take life on again. Be warned though: you’re not quite there yet. Give it another month before you go crazy.

Day 38

  • More patches of feeling will return to your chin and lower lip
  • You should no longer have to wear elastics during the day

Day 42 (6 weeks)

  • You should be able to drink through a straw quite easily by now

Day 45

  • Most of your stitches should have dissolved by now

Day 49 (7 weeks)

  • If you had a splint in, it should definitely be removed by now
  • Be prepared to readjust back into the world of orthodontics

Day 56 (8 weeks)

  • You should be able to eat with a small spoon or fork again
  • Licking your lips should be no problem at this point

Day 58

  • You’ll most likely be allowed to blow your nose again. Be gentle, though, because you don’t want to pop a blood vessel.

Day 70 (10 weeks)

  • If you haven’t been able to eat solid food yet, start now. Even if the task of eating involves mashing soft food up against the roof of your mouth, do it anyway. You’ll never gain your strength back on liquid alone.

Day 84 (12 weeks)

  • You should enjoy the freedom of eating just about anything you want by now
  • Consider practising whistling in order to break up the scar tissue that’s sure to be keeping your upper lip from enjoying its full range of motion

Day 90 (3 months)

  • Your three months have finally come to an end! Enjoy eating, breathing and smiling to their full effect.
  • Changes will be fairly slow from this point forward. The results you find yourself with at the 6-month mark will most likely be the results you’ll live with for the rest of your life.

Check out my recovery tips »

895 Comments on “Recovery Timeline”

  1. Fernando September 23, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    I got my surgery done on the 3rd, it might be different from every individual but now at week 4, Im able to speak (still some letters are weird sounding), eat with a spoon, and drink without drooling and without a straw including most stuff you could do within week 8, so if anyone else comes and see this don’t worry, you might recover faster, still use this timeline as a guide, its really good and you can use it to compare your progress.

    Thanks for doing this timeline and sharing your experience it has been really helpful!

  2. Rao varri September 20, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    I am 49 th day mark. I got little swelling. swelling is completely gone in how many days.

  3. Tracey September 13, 2015 at 4:40 am #

    I had my first jaw surgery in November 2014, using this recovery timeline definitely helped, although it was slightly different, you knew what to expect. I followed my doctors advise all the time and never fully recovered felling in my bottom lip and left side of my chin, however my jaw bone grew back incorrectly leaving me with an open bite. In March 2015, went back in for my secon jaw surgery and my mouth was wired shut for 6 weeks, the recovery went a lot faster than the first, again by jaw decided to do its own thing and broke the plates, leaving me again with an open bite and bone in my cheecks. Now on September 9th 2015, I went in for the 3rd Suregry. This time surgery was done externally, reconstructive mandible bilateral. So reconstructive plates where used as well as pigs bone, but this is to prevent the jaw from growing back incorrectly. This is by far the most painful surgery I have had, as it leaves you with constant ear ache and headaches. Now day 5 I can feel the extra aches starting to subside and the swelling is going down. I have been allowed to eat soft foods from the first day, but sticking to liquids is so much easier. I seriously don’t want to have a 4th surgery and it feels great to have a closed bite and all my teeth touching. So good luck to all of you out there who had to go thorough surgery and are still having to go through surgery.

  4. christina September 7, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    To Toni, I had my double jaw surgery (lefort 3) with genioplasty on 8/13/15 and am still experiencing the sensitivity to cold. I used to love ice water but I have been drinking all fluids room temp. My surgeon said this was normal.

  5. Toni September 4, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

    I’m 2 weeks post op and I was wondering if anyone else experienced sensitivity to cold? I cannot drink anything cold or it sends the roof of my mouth in spasms.

  6. Danielle August 24, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    Hey everyone! I want to mention that this is a great timeline for the first few weeks, but it is nothing like my experience after about week 3. I had my double jaw surgery (for underbite) on July 8th, 2015. I was out and about within a few days of my surgery. Granted, I didn’t feel great, but I knew walking and treating myself well (pedicure/manicure!) would make me get back to feeling better sooner.

    I am a very texture-conscious person, so I was only able to eat ensure for about a week and a half (I can’t stand smoothies). As a result, I was losing weight. Despite the fact that the doctor said this was normal, I didn’t want to lose weight. My way of alleviating this was to swallow coin sized pieces of hot dog whole (no chewing allowed!) so I could get more protein without gagging from eating mashed up meat.

    My doctor hasn’t really given me any instructions for recovery, so as soon as I got my splint out at 3.5 weeks, I started slowly eating solid food as it felt okay. If something was uncomfortable, I listened to my body and discontinued any chewing.

    The best things I found to start out chewing were ground beef, soft pasta, etc. I am eating fairly normally now (almost 7 weeks post-op) and have regained all lost weight. Woo! I have all my feeling back in my face with the exception of a pins-and-needles area on my chin. It is not really bothersome at all.

    NOTE: I did not have any feeling from my nose to my eye socket on the left side of my face until week 4. It was so nice when that came back!

    My best advice for anyone going through this surgery: Take your pain medicine, get up and moving around, and listen to your own body rather than rigidly adhering to someone else’s timeline (it’s great as a marker, but nobody has the exact same recovery!). Of course, listen to your doctor, but also talk with him/her about your nutritional needs. Remember that without eating you WILL NOT HEAL. The only reason I have healed so quickly is because I didn’t live on liquid alone for very long.

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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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