Recovery Tips

Following is a summary of the most important things I learned during my recovery from double jaw surgery.

  • 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 ofย lonelinessย 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.

51 Comments

  1. Hey!
    So I am wondering, it has been almost a week since my double surgery and my swelling seems to only have worsened. Should i be concerned? Should I schedule to meet with him before my next apt with him?

  2. Hey, so is it ok to sleep on my side even if its wired shut? I do feel my jaw shift a bit when im on either side. Im on week three of post op.

    • Hi Jose, I’d recommend trying to sleep on your back until your surgeon gives you the green light for sleeping on your side. Sleeping on your side likely won’t cause any big problems, but it’s best to stay on the safe side for at least the first 6 weeks.

  3. Hey Graham I’m one week post surgery from a double fractured jaw and I have an appointment at the doctor to takeout the stitches and two screws next week. I’m just wondering if it’s very painful and if I will be in a lot of pain after that. As for the healing process I have to say I feel I’m doing well after just one week, Doctor removed the elastic a after only three days as my bite felt a bit better without them. I’m also drinking three ensure plus a day and eating things like scrambled eggs (although I cut them very thinly and swallow them only). Thank you very much for your comments and for bringing a community of people going through the same process.

    • Francisco, I cannot speak to having stitches or screws removed because my stitches dissolved on their own and I kept all of my screws. I would imagine the stitch removal will be painless, but I have no idea about the screws, sorry!

      • Thanks a lot Graham. I will share my experience as I would imagine some people will go through the same. My stitches are also the absorbing kind but doctor said he would remove them anyway.

      • May I ask, how long did it take for your stitches to dissolve? One of mine seems like its unraveling and its starting to irritate me.

  4. Hi there
    I had broken jaw surgery on the 23 Jan I’ve just 2 days ago had my bands taken off and noticed that my bite dosnt meet only at the back side of my teeth that’s it, I have physio exercises to do every hour, should I be worried about my bite?

    • Amanda, having an open bite is fairly common during the first couple months of recovery. Your teeth should naturally grow back together over the next 3โ€“6 months, so I wouldn’t worry about it at this point. Just normal stuff! ๐Ÿ˜Š

      • Thanks graham, went to the hospital today and they out bands back on and did an X-ray to make site bone heart moved so fingers crossed

  5. This is the best site I have seen out of 10 sites looked up. Graham, your advice and help here is tremendous. I broke my jaw in 2 places just before New Years, so it’s been almost a month. I see a lot of comments from people that are experiencing the same symptoms as I am and I like your responses to them, Graham. I get sharp but brief pains where the breaks are on occasion. That had me concerned. I like the idea of trying to whistle for 10 minutes several times a day to deal with the lower lip and chin numbness.
    Bottom line is that I remain patient. I’m reading a lot of comments on the web about people who want to get wires removed early, or eat non-pureed foods sooner than suggested. It’s not very wise at all. This injury can have life-long implications. Why rush the healing process because its inconvenient?
    I’m heading back to work on February 8, which will be 5 weeks post operation. I’m going to talk to the surgeon/doctor first, as there is a lot of machinery vibration and walking involved with my job. I can’t wait to distract my brain from the injury. I think I’m going nuts staying at home.
    Cheers for this site. I do have a question, that I’m sure the doc will answer anyway, but does anyone notice major numbness and some pain in cold weather? It’s only going to get colder here :)

    • Sean, I’m happy to hear my ramblings have provided some assurance for you. It sounds like you had a tough end to the year, sheesh!

      I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada when I had my surgery in March of 2010, so winter was still very much present. I did not notice any pain or numbness due to the cold weather. I felt basically the same outside as I did inside.

      Good luck with your return to work. It should be nice to keep busy again!

  6. I am 3 days post-op and I would like to know if anyone else has had a lot of congestion. After waking up from a nap during the day or night, I have a lot of pressure in the back of my head and in my face. I’ve had the same type of problems previously with my sinuses, but this seems worse. Did this only happen to me?

    • Alta, I recall being extremely congested during my first week of recovery as well. Try rubbing some Vaseline under your nose whenever you’re feeling congested. This will alleviate some of the pressure in your sinuses and should clear them enough for you to breathe comfortably for a few hours. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  7. Hi Graham,

    I just had double jaw surgery on Monday, Jan 25, 2016. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am glad I found your blog about a week before. It helped me see that people have survived this experience. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t make it through. Today is my 2nd day at home. I woke up this morning feeling a lot of pressure in my head and face. It was probably a lot of congestion, but it makes sleeping very difficult. My question – do you find a warm pack on your face to help better than a cold pack? I don’t think I could go back to sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night and put an ice pack on my face.

    I also find it difficult to brush my teeth properly. Probably because I’m afraid to try to open my mouth. I’m not wired shut but I do have rubber bands. Did you wait for a few days before brushing? I am using the prescribed mouthwash, hoping that it will do its job .

    • Hi Alta, welcome to your first week of recovery! I only used an ice pack for the first 3 days of recovery. After that, I used a warm pack whenever I felt any discomfort in my face, including when I slept. Laying a warm pack on your face is surprisingly soothing at night.

      As for brushing, I recommend only rinsing your mouth with your prescribed mouthwash or warm salt water for at least the first 2 weeks. Your breath will be quite awful, but brushing can lead to jarring your jaw or opening your blood clots, both of which would be a step backward. Your surgeon will likely give you the green light to start brushing gentle at your first post-op appointment. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  8. Hi! I had double jaw surgery with genioplasty on November 30th to correct a receding chin and long upped jaw. Surgery went very well and I did so well after surgery I was only in the hospital one night. I am having a few concerns about the recovery process and hope to find some info that could ease my mind!! I know I should be patient because it takes time, and I’m really trying to but it’s getting hard!! After surgery I was numb up to my eyeballs but have pretty much got all my feeling back except for my gums, left side of tongue, bottom lip, and chin. The numbness in my chin and bottom lip are the worse. I feel absolutely nothing except some tightness under my lip. I’m still drooling some also. And my main concern is that my mouth will not close! I can close it some but it’s takes effort. I can’t even sick through a straw and not being able to close my lips is affecting my speech! I can’t pronunciate certain words! I spoke with my dr last week and he said to keep exercising my jaws and lips that it is going to take time to loosen scar tissue and contracted muscles. I do trust him but I have read lots of stories of other surgery pts and seen videos and pics and have yet to see someone that couldn’t close their mouth and usually the drooling has stopped by six weeks. Anybody else have or had these issues? And should I be feeling something in my chin lips and gums?
    Thank you!!

    • Hi Shea, my recovery was similar to your own in that I was still having difficulty speaking after 2 full months of recovery. It sounds like much of what you’re describing is due to swelling and scar tissue, so I encourage you to try whistling for a few minutes about 3 times each day to help break up the scar tissue around your nose, lips, and chin. Try not to lose hope just yet and remember that you still have another month to go before you are fully recovered. Best of luck and let me know if the whistling helps after a week! ๐Ÿ˜Š

  9. Graham,

    Tomorrow will be week 3 post surgery for me. What week could you eat anything you wanted? I’m getting tired of soup, ice cream and sashimi!

    • Hi Kelly, you’re generally allowed to being eating any soft foods you want to once your splint is removed. For me, that was not until 7 weeks into recovery, but for most people, their surgeon gives them permission to start eating soft foods (think mashed potatoes and pasta) by the end of the first month.

  10. My surgery has just been postponed by 3 weeks. I have a family reunion to attend in the UK which now falls 10 weeks after my surgery date and have to committ to arranging air travel etc. Do you think I will be well enough to travel at that point? Will I be able to eat?

    • Hi Jacqueline, I think you should be okay to fly at that point. You should also be able to speak perfectly clearly and eat anything short of really tough foods (eg. steak) or really hard foods (eg. peanuts). Just keep in mind that you should still be careful not to jar your jaw too hard until the 3-month mark. If you need more reassurance, you can of course call your surgeon’s office and ask them when it’s okay to fly again. Enjoy the reunion!

      • Thank you so much…I am feeling somewhat relieved. I am not looking forward to the surgery but the reunion will be something I can look forward to and focus on during my recovery…thanks again Graham.

  11. Hey dear Graham.
    I had the same surgery somewhere around December, and a hip bone graph. Boy that was a roller coaster ride hahahha!! Anyway. I have question and pretty worried about it, my upper jaw seems to be moving, just slight movement when i bite down and when i move it with my fingers, the whole front row of my teeth. Is that normal?? It doesnt hurt. I’m just very worried that maybe I’ve chewed too much?

    • Hi Linda, it’s actually quite normal to feel like your jaw is “floating” for the first month after surgery. If it’s not causing you any pain and you have elastics on, there’s likely nothing to worry about. However, if you are not wearing elastics, I would give your surgeon a call and ask them what their strategy for keeping your jaw in place is. Best of luck!

  12. I just had upper and lower jaw surgery 5 days ago and my teeth on one side sometimes feel like they are grinding or moving when I’m eating with the syringe or talking. Is this normal?

    • Hi Petra, it’s normal to feel like your teeth are moving within the first few weeks of recovery. This is generally due to your nerves being bruised and not properly relaying proper feelings to your brain. Nothing to be worried about at this point and that feeling should go away within another week as your swelling begins to decrease. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  13. Hi everyone. I am 7 days post op and losing weight at an alarming rate. I’ve lost 14 lbs already and terribly weak. All of the shakes that are high in calorie seem to contest me and gag me. Any suggestions on how to up the calorie intake? This has not been a good experience thus far. I pretty much thought I was going to die the first two days. My nausea was terrible to the point they had to leave the stomach tube in that ran from my nose for two days. I moved-I got sick. They had to reinsert it twice because I kept gagging it up and all with me AWAKE! My throat was raw the point I could barely swallow. As far as pain, it seems to hurt most at night (but I did have pain the first 6 days and had to stay on pain melds every 4 hours) as during the night I end up resting on my side instead of keeping to sleeping on my back. My swelling has finally started to go down, but I look like a freak that has been pumped full of Botox. Having a tough time. Angie (Midlothian, VA)

    • Hi Angie,

      I’m sorry to hear your first week of recovery has been so brutal. I’ve met a few other people who struggled with eating, gagging, and vomiting, and they described it as being quite painful.

      The best thing you can do for your body at this time is attempt to provide it with energy so it can heal and get you back to normal as quickly as possible. If the high-calorie meal supplement shakes are not working, you may have to just drink water, juice, and soup broth (chicken, tomato, etc.) until your swelling decreases enough to allow you to drink thicker fruit smoothies. You can also try preparing cold tea with honey dissolved in. Honey has a decent number of calories as well as many other healthy properties. (Disclaimer: I used to be a beekeeper, hehe.) ๐Ÿ

      To deal with your swelling, try laying down with a hot pack on your face for 10 minutes a few times each day. The heat should soothe your nerves, which may provide a bit of relief for you.

      Overall, I think you’re in the business of being patient and surviving for 1 more week at this point. As soon as you hit the 2-week mark, things should get a lot better for you. You’ll be able to eat more, your swelling will begin to decrease at a much quicker rate, and you’ll have a lot more energy.

      Hang in there and if you feel the need to talk (or rant!), please do write back. ๐Ÿ˜Š

      • Hi Graham – I am three weeks out today and feeling better. I just returned to work today. It is actually good because it takes my focus off a bit as I’ve been experiencing terrible anxiety. Thanks again for your comments! It helps tremendously!

        • I’m happy to hear that you’re doing better, Angie! The good news is that it only gets better from this point onward. Enjoy being back at work and you’ll be fully recovered in no time!

  14. Almost two weeks post op on a double jaw surgery and a corrected deviated septum. A lot of tingling nerve pain and numbness around the lips but the swelling is reducing a bit. Trouble sleeping at night with the pain, especially post afternoon nap. Thanks for sharing your experience and story. I found that lip balm is necessary and Manuka honey helped heal and keep the roof of my mouth moist at night. I use a hydrogen pyroxide mouthwash too; so hopefully no infections. Another thing is I do salt water rinses to help any swelling inside the mouth. It’s getting better, just have to stay positive! Thanks!

    • Shane, it sounds like you’ve got a good handle on the first month of recovery. Hang in there and your days will be getting quite a bit easier as you embark on the third week. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  15. Hi Graham,

    I’m 6 days thru TMJ surgery on upper and lower jaw. Very painful the first few days but now feeling slightly better. What was the next big check mark day for you in recovery? 2 week mark?

    • Hi Kelly, I would say the first milestone is returning home from the hospital and the second milestone is the beginning of the 3rd week of recovery. Life generally gets a lot better for people after those first 2 weeks. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  16. Hey my biggest worry is you have mentioned in a few posts about wheezing and struggling to breathe? How bad is it? Iโ€™m getting double jaw surgery in a few weeks. And Iโ€™m afraid I will start to panic if I canโ€™t breathe well also you never mention if the splint removal process was painful or not, please get back to me this website youโ€™ve created is awesome!!

    • Hi Blaise,
      I had the surgery Dec 14th and have been checking this site regularly so I just noticed your comment.
      I wanted to share my experience in the hospital, the second night I had a panic attack about breathing. It is really frightening when your nose is clogged and their is blood going down the back of your throat, and then of course the stint makes you feel like you are not getting enough air.
      I was able to calm down with the oxygen mask. It was very scary but I was able to get through it.
      Removing the stint was the most amazing feeling that I will never forget. It’s like you are clenching your mouth together forever and then you finally let go of all that pressure. It is such a relief.
      I wish you luck with your surgery. My only advice to you is to set an alarm at night to take your pain meds on time, do not wait for the pain to wake you up or you will be suffering while waiting for them to kick in. Also, try not to feel around with your tongue, there were a couple times that I pressed on a nerve (they are so badly bruised) and that causes the worst pain.
      Best of luck!

    • Hey Blaise,
      I had jaw surgery one week ago and my biggest worry was not being able to breathe. I was worried because I have slight asthma. I can honestly say the breathing was not a concern at all when the time came. Just relax and rest and you’ll be fine. Another thing is I say the opposite to the guy below me. I would not set an alarm to take your pain meds in the middle of the night. I would only take them in the middle of the night if you happen to wake up on your own and it happens to be time to take them. Do not worry about the pain. Pain was not a problem AT ALL. I was never in any pain at all even the moment I woke up from the surgery. Just a little bit of soreness. This surgery is not what it seems. It sounds much worse than it really is I promise. The liquid diet is KIND OF tough but it’s actually not that bad. Besides that it is a breeze honestly IMO. I do agree though about the sleeping thing to an extent. I’ve been sleeping late but definitely have not been taking naps or else I wouldn’t be able to sleep well at night. Sleeping is probably the hardest part Bc it’s so tough for me to get comfortable on my back AND propped up. But once I’m asleep I generally stay asleep for a while. You’ll be fine no need to worry. I had bad nerves before this all started now I’m like “gosh I worried about this?” Please let me know if you have ANY more questions I would really enjoy answering them.

  17. Hi there! I’ve had my orthognathic 3 weeks and 3 days ago (3rd December 2015 to be exact!) as I was born with a cleft lip and palate. I’m just wondering I guess, has anyone have any first hand experience with a similar procedure to my case stated above? I’d like to know about smoking post op? I’m borderline passive smoker to social smoker as I’ve plenty of friends from work and in my circle that smokes and I do tend to mix smokes when I drink socially and would like to know if it’s any harm in resuming to that sort of habit? Roughly would smoke 2-3 sticks when I’m out and more when I’ve had a couple of drinks but I wouldn’t say I’d consider myself a chain smoker. Please advise me on this regard. Thanks amil!

    • Hi Dar, I don’t have any insight to share on the smoking front because I’m not a smoker myself, but I would recommend calling your surgeon to ask about this. I think it should be okay to smoke as long as the wounds on the inside of your mouth have healed, but again, you should probably get your surgeon’s approval for this. :)

    • No smoking it effects how the healing process will be and puts you at high risk for deadly blood clots.

  18. Thanks for all your insights, I’m 2 weeks post op and i have these scars or kind of scratch on the roof of my mouth, back of my tongue and down my throat, I guess it’s some of the effects of the breathing tube used during surgery? If anyone experienced it, how long does it last coz it’s really discomforting

    • Hi Gracy, what you’re feeling is pretty normal and is usually a result of either stitches or the breathing tube. It should heal up by the end of the first week, so if you can hold out until then, you should be in much better shape. :)

  19. Thanks Graham for the insight. I’m hoping eventually the burning will go away. Although my surgeon says if it doesn’t they can go back into surgery and cut the nerves completely. The only thing is I will never ever feel my bottom lip or chin again. I don’t know which would be worse. I guess I’ll just keep praying. Your blog has been very helpful. Thanks

    • Maxine, I don’t think the surgeon will choose to intentionally sever the nerve unless you have extreme complications. Having patience and praying sounds like your best plan of attack at present. I hope your body comes around and heals this for you! :)

      • I’m also having a burning pain and lower lip. The pain is not bad in the lip but the chin. I’m 5.5 weeks post op. I wouldn’t let the doctor sever the nerve. I think you are still early in the healing process at 8 weeks. I’m still taking codeine which takes the edge off. My surgeon is talking about putting me on Gabapentin for the pain. I would go these routes before something as permanent as severing the nerve.

  20. Hi everyone and happy holidays!

    Im 6 days post op. Ive been ok, with the normal swelling/discomfort. But today, a pain began in my bottom left cheek. I feel its by where the stitches are. Im taking my pain meds but they dont seem to help with this particular pain. Any advise?

    Hally holidays!

    • Alli, if it’s a constant throbbing pain, I’d recommend asking whoever you live with to try to look at the inside of your cheek to see if it appears to be infected. If the swelling prevents this and the pain continues for another day, you may want to call your surgeon to ask about the possibility of an infection. This is a normal thing, but it’s always smart to be proactive about these things.

      • Hi Graham- its not a throbbing pain. Its very swollen and i think i must have hurt my self yesterday while brushing my teeth.
        I saw the inside of my cheek and the stiched area seems ok.
        I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share and help us all during this process.

        • No problem! Remember that your braces and splint can both cut the inside of your mouth, so as frustrating and painful as that can be, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Merry Christmas! ๐ŸŽ„

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