I’ve put together a list of useful tips 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 highly suggest you pick up the following essentials before your surgery:
- Food — chicken broth, Ensure, tomato soup, prune juice and smoothie ingredients (whole milk, ice cream, yogurt, peanut butter, honey, strawberries, bananas and oatmeal)
- Entertainment — movies, video games, books and anything else of interest to you that requires minimal energy
- Other — medicated lip balm, several cloths and a couple of hot packs (the ones you’re allowed to heat up in the microwave)
You need not worry about medicine or syringes because the hospital will provide both of these for you. Be sure to fill all of your prescriptions the day you’re allowed to return home, because I guarantee that you’ll 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.
I’ve summed up the most important things I learned during my recovery below. If you choose not to follow this advice, I feel quite confident that you will discover these things on your own in due time.
- 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.
Click to see a recovery timeline for jaw surgery »
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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!