Recovery Tips

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.

Recovery essentials

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):
  • 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 »

1,094 Comments on “Recovery Tips”

  1. Ryan September 19, 2015 at 6:50 am #

    I am truley frightened about the awkward feeling I have in my lower jaw after surgery. If you read this, and you have a option on surgery or being wired shut really consider the numbness and scars in the mouth.. if it is a simple break get the wires

  2. Michael August 16, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    Hi graham, I’m on day 25 with a double jaw surgery. I love this blog, but had only seen one note on cavities. I have he splint and it’s suppose to come out soon, but I used a mirror and my four front teeth are kinda sad and by looking though the splint I see two dark spots. I worried there cavities and want to get this splint out earlier, I don’t want a black hole in my teeth any suggestions?
    The splint blocks my tooth brush from reaching my front teeth, so there not getting cleaned, do the surgeon put something. I he splint or on the teeth to stop cavities as I have had food get stuck at times. Thanks

  3. JANET May 7, 2015 at 9:09 am #


  4. ozzie May 7, 2015 at 8:46 am #

    well mandy, that was a very comforting blog…not. im about to get my braces on for the first time im not even close to all of yours situation right now. im in the military, i will be alone with no family after this surgery. Do you think i will be alright to do this on my own? doubt anyone is still on this site since people have been blogging since 2010, but its worth a shot. im just worried about taking care of myself after this surgery. thanks

  5. April April 22, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    I don’t know if people still respond on here but I thought I would give it a try anyway. I was told to make sure my face was not hit after surgery (makes sense) however, my 19 month old son bumped my face a couple of times. it didn’t hurt but I’m wondering if anyone else has had this happen? What did you do? Did you have any complications? I’ve taken a step back from changing his diaper and only hold him if he’s lying perfectly still so it doesn’t happen again but I’m super paranoid regarding if damage could already be done. I’m in my third week post op.

  6. Mandy April 12, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    Day 4
    This is my first day typing because this is the first time i have honestly been awake enough to type. As I’m writing this, my dad is helping me wipe spit off my face (sexy). This recovery kind of sucks. Ill just come out and say it. (By the way, pardon the typos, as it is very difficult to see over my massive chin.) The first day, I remember. Everyone says you don’t but I do. I remember getting rolled into the room with the big scary lights and the anesthesiologist telling me I was about to fall asleep. I spent days 1 and 2 in the hospital completely. I came home on Saturday, day 3 around noon I think. I have now been “enjoying” my fist full day at home. It’s not fun. Eating isn’t fun. It’s painful and irritating. Sleeping isn’t fun. Waking up isn’t fun. Nothing is fun or even, truthfully, mildly pleasant. Like I said, this recovery sucks majorly. As I typed that last sentence I spewed saliva all over my laptop screen and am now, to no avail, trying to clean that up.
    The medicine tastes like death and so does basically all the food you used to love. Either the doctors don’t realize this or they do not want to tell us but if you have ever seen the anatomy of the tongue, the bitter senses are in the back… that’s where all your food goes. Delicious. You have no clue how helpless you feel when you can’t drink out of normal water bottlelike a normal person. I swear, if I ever see a syringe come near my face again, I’m bolting. Excuse me while I eat a lovely syringe of coffee protein right now. I think I may kill myself soon.
    If I had a dollar for every time I have said that I wanted to give up or die, I would be a very very very rich woman. This is not a wisdom tooth removal. You don’t get to wake up and use a spoon. You don’t get to feel like a normal home. I feel like I have some sort of mental retardation. I am (almost) completely helpless and I can’t explain how I feel to anyone. I can talk a little bit now but it’s hard for my parents to understand me since I still don’t know where exactly my mouth is located.
    Numbness: it’s not the worst part. But it sucks. It helps you not notice ALL of the pain. This is a beautiful thing. Love it. Treasure it. I can’t feel my throat, which makes it very difficult and time consuming to swallow anything. I can’t feel anything below my top lip so I kind of just sit here looking like I’m in awe of everything with my jaw dropped below where it should be. “You’ll catch flies”. This also leads to A LOT of drool. Please, if you only read this, read: DROOL. My mom nicknamed me sally saliva. It never stops. Never. Get over it. Its painless but it will make you want to die because you don’t know where its coming from or why its there or if its there or how to make it stop. Just try to survive through it.
    Pain: my major pain is mainly in my chin area and on the sides of my jaw. Not so much in my nose or lips. They just feel weird. I will tell you however that, if you are a stressor, like me, you will have muscle aches wherever it is that you carry that stress. And honestly, that’s probably my worst pain right now. Because its unexpected and I cant control it. The pain is bad. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a dirty liar and should be punished because everything hurts like hell. Trust me.
    Eating: is hard. And difficult and it makes me want to jump off a cliff. I want to drink a water bottle and eat a potato chip so badly that I may go into cardiac arrest soon. I hate not being normal and being able to do the most basic normal things, like eating. You kind of get used to it but don’t forget, nothing tastes like it should. It all tastes bitter and weird and sour. You will not taste sweet again until you can use your entire mouth to eat because your sweet senses don’t get grazed even by the syringes and you don’t wan them to at the beginning because that means you would have to swallow normally, which is not a thing on day 4. You will try to, I have, and all you will get is a lapful of whatever you were trying to consume. Not wroth it.
    Misc.: clean your dace, and tour teeth and anything you can. It will make you feel slightly more like a human and anything you can do to have that is very worth it. Don that.
    Praying for all of yall going through this and hope you will pray back.

  7. JANET April 2, 2015 at 6:34 am #

    used amica tablets to assist with bruising. worked great!

  8. Donna January 22, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

    Good luck to all getting ready for their surgeries, and those recovering !!! I’m scheduled for the LeForte and Bilateral Sagital split in addition to septoplasty on the 27th of January… just a few days away now!!

    I must say reading this and other blogs, has helped me feel somewhat prepared. I’m guessing there’s really no way to actually prepare for everything this surgery will encounter, but I am hopeful that at least I have things ready to ease some of the discomfort where I can.

    I’m most worried about just breathing the first few days/weeks. The surgeon is concerned about my lack of bone and possibly thin bone, which could cause trouble. Hopefully the quality supplements I’ve been taking for the past 6 months will have helped some, and hopefully I will find a way to push through everything and enjoy life without sleep apnea after dealing with it my entire life! I’m 48 years old and consider myself in good health, barring the sleep apnea.

    Has anyone used arnica pellets before their surgery? Did it help ?? Any other tips for breathing the first few nights??

  9. nash borges January 16, 2015 at 1:17 am #

    i went through a jaw surgery , below my right jaw i had couple of stitches the doc took out few of it for a day or two it was ok then all of a sudden water started coming out from that fine area not to be seen it starts it stops i am fed up with it is there a way to stop this water coming out from this small tiny hole which is not healed up stitches.

  10. Jen November 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these tips. I had double jaw surgery 3 weeks ago. What I’m going through now is in a way worse than the initial recovery– the numbness and not being able to talk well at all. It’s completely scary and frustrating. Some days I think I wouldn’t have had the surgery had I known about this awkward phase. I do have minimal pain and I’m happy with the way the swelling has gone down as well as the way my bite is lining up. So those are all good things. But one of the main reasons for getting the surgery was the improve my speech and I can’t help thinking maybe I’ve wrecked it for good…. Just frustrated with slow progress.

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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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