I’ve put together a list of useful tips and helpful products for anyone who is on the road to undergo jaw surgery of any sort. I wish I would have known some of these things before I walked into the hospital.
To begin, 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):
- Ensure meal replacement drinks — These may not be the most delicious drinks, but they provide enough calories to give you some energy during the liquid diet phase.They should also satisfy any chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry cravings you’re having.
- Boost meal replacement drinks — If you don’t like the flavor of Ensure, these will serve the same purpose. Also available in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
- Chicken broth — During the first few days when the swelling makes it difficult to open your mouth, things like chicken broth can provide some much-desired flavor.
- Tomato soup — Also good for the first few days when you’re on a purely liquid diet.
- Campbell’s Chunky Soup — These were my favorite meals while on a liquid diet. I would heat them up on the stove and then blend them in the Magic Bullet before “eating” them. Lots of tasty flavors available: Chicken Noodle, Chicken Pot Pie, Pot Roast, Grilled Sirloin Steak with Hearty Vegetables, Beef with Country Vegetables, etc.
- Prune Juice — This may sound like a silly one, but it will make your toilet time a lot more enjoyable during the first couple of weeks.
- Fruit smoothies — These were another staple for me while on the liquid diet. I blended strawberries, bananas, oatmeal, peanut butter, honey, yogurt, vanilla ice cream, and whole milk for a delicious, high-calorie drink. Read my post about it.
- 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.
You shouldn’t have to worry about medicine or syringes because the hospital should provide both of these for you. Be sure to fill all of your prescriptions the day you’re allowed to return home, because you’ll likely need each and every one of them eventually. I didn’t pick up my painkiller at first because I was completely numb and felt no pain, but a few days later, when I felt a little bit of discomfort and was unable to sleep, I wished I had that medicine on hand.
Helpful recovery tips
I’ve summed up the most important things I learned during my recovery below.
- Drink lots of prune juice and water. Your toilet time will be far from enjoyable for the first couple of weeks because you’re likely to be severely dehydrated. The prune juice will provide your body with the fiber it needs to work those bowels properly, but fiber is useless without water because it won’t dissolve in your body. I recommend a bare minimum of 1 L of water per day. Drink 2 L per day as soon as you can.
- Before you attempt to pull any dead skin off of your lips, be absolutely certain that it’s not a stitch. I learned this the hard way.
- Start using medicated lip balm immediately following your return to your own home. If you don’t, you’ll end up with flaps of dead skin that are half an inch in diameter, and I promise you they won’t feel good when they catch on your braces.
- Apply heat to your face 3-4 times per day for the first 5-6 weeks to help with the swelling. The heat will also help you fall asleep.
- Begin each day at a decent time. If you sleep most of the day, you won’t be able to sleep at night, and you’ll hate yourself for it. Get out of bed, shower, eat some breakfast and brush your teeth and you’ll enjoy each day a lot more. (This is good advice for any day of your life, but it especially applies when you’re on the verge of depression from having jaw surgery.)
- Go to bed on time. Yawning will cause you quite a bit of pain, so prevent it by getting the right amount of sleep during the proper hours.
- As soon as you’re able to talk clearly enough for friends and family to understand you, call people and be social. Go outside and enjoy nature. Whatever you do, ensure you don’t fall into a trap of loneliness and self-pity.
- Start drinking from a cup as soon as you’re physically able to. Your upwards trek back to having full energy begins the day you can throw your syringes in the garbage.
- Eat solid food as soon as your surgeon gives you the go-ahead. It’ll be a slow, tedious and frustrating process, but you need to go through with it in order to build your jaw muscles back up and learn how to chew properly once again.
- It may take some time to get used to your new smile and your newly structured face. Don’t be ashamed of yourself. You don’t look funny at all. You’re simply not used to looking like you’re supposed to.
- And lastly, don’t worry about your looks, bite or facial feeling for at least 6 months. You may have an open bite, but you’ll wake up one morning and your teeth will have migrated back together. You may be completely numb, but feeling will return almost overnight.
If you have any questions about the recovery process, or perhaps have other pointers to share with upcoming jaw surgery patients, feel free to jot them down in the comments.
Check out my recovery timeline »
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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!