Jaw Surgery FAQ

 faq*This page lists some common questions that people have asked me along the way. I’ve also asked some of these questions myself. I’ve tried to cover as many questions as I could think of to help other people. If you have any of your own that aren’t listed below, feel free to comment below! If you can think of anything to add, or want to ask anything that I haven’t covered, feel free to comment below! If it’s something I can answer about, I’ll do my best to add it to this list.

Please See: The information that I have provided on this page is mostly based on my own experience and/or research, it shouldn’t be taken as medically correct, it’s important to remember that every person is different and recovery varies in each individual as you may have a different experience/recovery around something than I did. Yet, if you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to call and speak to your surgeon. They are always there for you to help through your recovery.


Pain, Swelling, Feeling and Numbness:

Q1. How painful is the surgery itself?

A: Some have compared the pain of jaw surgery to that of having your wisdom teeth removed. This may be the case for some people, though it may be more painful for others. I would say, everyone’s experience is different. During the surgery, you’ll be given a full general anesthetic and as a result, the procedure is completed while you are asleep so ideally, you don’t feel anything (until you wake up).

Q2. How much pain is felt as soon as you wake up from surgery?

A: Once you wake up from surgery, you will be given painkillers (such as morphine), which will reduce any immediate pain. However, it also depends on a number of factors surrounding your surgery. The surgery also causes significant swelling and numbness around the entire face, which can be a source for pain. Lastly, the surgery, like many surgeries requires cutting through soft tissues and bones which hurts quite a lot. You’ll experience a lot of pain when you yawn, sneeze and cough. It’ll also hurt when your jaw spasms (and it will spasm for the first month).

Q3. My pain is increasing day by day. What should I do?

A: You will be most likely to feel the pain for 6 months straight. But, if you feel the pain is causing you discomfort then, the best advice I could give to you is to call your surgeon. It is possible to develop infections where screws and plates are placed, so it is best to have a professional look at it to ensure it doesn’t become worse.

Q4. Will I feel nauseous during recovery?

A: There is a strong possibility that you will feel sick following your surgery, due to a combination of high pain medicines, a very empty stomach and swallowing blood during your surgery. I did! In the hours after I woke up from the surgery, I vomited blood in two big bursts each.This resulted in me needing IV fluids a lot longer than necessary. I did! In the hours after I woke up from the surgery, I vomited around 1-1.5 liters of black, old blood in two big bursts each. Even during recovery, you’ll still be on strong medication. Strong pain medications can cause nausea. 

Q5. I get random jaw spasms. Is this normal?

A: Yes. It’s normal to experience these pain spasms. I myself kept experiencing this almost everyday. It does feel really painful but it happens only because the muscles are contracting around your face and your jaws are in the process of healing.

Q6. Did you have problems breathing after surgery?

A: Yep, had breathing problems. My swelling was pretty intense which closed one of my nostrils and my nose was clogged from the blood and stuff. Things that helped: Steamy showers (I just sat in the bathroom with the doors closed and heat on since showering was difficult after the bone graft). Q-tips soaked in hydrogen peroxide: Gross, but very helpful in removing debris. Saline spray: This helped clear some of the gunk out. Overall, if I just concentrated on breathing “breathe in… breathe out…” I realized I was getting enough air. No fun, though – especially at night. This only lasted from around day 2-6.

Q7. How much swelling is there after the surgery? How long does it take for swelling to go down?

A: In my surgery, it took about 7-8 hours and I was extremely swollen (more like puffy) when I woke up. Swelling will begin immediately after surgery and will likely peak within the first 24-36 hours. This peak may last several days and may cause some discomfort but, as your bone and soft tissue heals- the swelling will gradually decrease. So initially, you may be un-recognizably swollen. You’ll probably observe a fair amount of change in your swelling over the first month of recovery however, they’ll be gradual over subsequent weeks or even months. The rule of thumb is that, it takes 4 months for the swelling to completely go away. But don’t worry! The majority of swelling will go away after the third week. 

Q8. I had a jaw surgery, but why does my nose look different?

A: In my case, I had an underbite due to a shorter upper jaw and a protruding lower jaw which made my face look more ‘hollow’ in the center and not having enough support on my cheek area. However, this “difference” in your nose may be permanent, or it may return to normal as there are lots of factors that can make your nose look like it has a slightly different shape than it did before. Some of these are swelling in the first place. Second, many things are still changing in your face so there will likely be more swelling to lose and more adjustment that will occur as you gradually recover. Moreover, the nose sits on top of the upper jaw bone so, in the surgery, if your upper jaw is moved, the shape of your nose will likewise change. Be patient. Give it time, because your facial structure has some “settling” to do. If you’re still worried, consult with your surgeon.

Q9. Does Jaw Surgery cause numbness?

A: Yes. Numbness after jaw surgery isn’t expected to fully go for at least 6 months and that is because- During the operation, several nerves in your face and chin have to be moved around and when you move a nerve, it becomes bruised, and when a nerve is bruised, it stops providing sensations thus giving you that numb feeling. Ideally, the numbness is not permanent but in many cases, there can be permanent numbness in specific places on your face, esp the chin area. I think it differs person to person. My surgery involved both my upper and lower jaw, and while some of my numbness was starting to disappear after four weeks, I still had numbness in my cheeks, chin, lower lip, and the area below my eyes after three months post-surgery. The nerves can take as much as 6-12 months to fully restore back to their function, so it is best to give it time and not worry yourself too early on in the process.

Q10. Does the surgery cause permanent numbness?

A: This again is different for each person. 70% will get back their full feeling, while 30% may still experience slightly numb in their cheeks, chin and lower lip for the rest of their lives (I hope it doesn’t happen to you). The feeling you have after 6 months post-op is likely what you’ll live with for the rest of your life.


Nutrition/Weight Loss/Weight Gain:

Q11. What can you eat after jaw surgery?

A: For the first 4-6 weeks, you will be on a strict liquid diet and eating out of a syringe, depending on how quickly your jaw has stabilized. I was on a “all liquid” diet. No chewing! No soft food, no noodles, pasta, mashed potatoes. Nothing! It has to be pure milk liquid. Yup! It’s really not fun knowing that other people are enjoying cheeseburgers, pizza’s and other wonderful foods while you’re restricted to only soups, water and “all liquid”. Though, after 6 weeks, you will progress to a blended or soft food diet and continuing. 

Q12. How will I survive on a liquid diet?

A: It is true that for a time, you will be required to make do with a liquefied diet for maybe several days or even weeks (depends on what your surgeon thinks). The plus is that, in most cases, the procedure doesn’t require people to be wired shut anymore. Although, you might have tight bands holding your jaws together. Either way, you will lose all ability to chew anything for a long period of time and this means you will need to find creative ways to ensure that your diet gives you the nutrition you need to remain healthy. Many foods can be mixed with water, milk, or juices, and blended to give you a good amount of protein, carbs, and vitamins, to maintain a healthy diet.

Q13. Does eating/swallowing/drinking hurt?

A: Slightly. If your jaw is wired shut then you may face a bit of trouble when it comes to eating in particular as you won’t be able to open your jaws very much but by 1 mm only. It will be difficult to swallow during the first few days. Remember- you have plenty stitches inside so DO NOT force yourself to stretch your jaws at all. (I have done that and trust me, it was frightening). Even after 6 weeks, you may not be able to open your mouth more than a finger’s width apart. The speed of your diet progression will depend on the jaw exercises you do, and improvement in your jaw strength.

Q14. Why will my jaws need to be wired shut? Is it a horrible experience? What’s it like?

A: It actually depends on what type of jaw surgery you’ve had. In my surgery, both my jaws were moved forward and backward (which is kinda severe) which is why I had my jaws wired shut for 6 weeks to hold both my jaws together in place so that my jaws don’t shift out of their place. Your jaws being wired shut will likely not cause any extra pain for the first few days. Yet, the bad news is that you won’t be able to eat/drink anything unless it’s literally in liquid form as small particles can’t get through. Yet, if you’re worried about breathing, it’s only an issue for the first few nights when you’re still clearing snot and blood out of your nose. Once your nose air passageways are open, breathing would not be that difficult.

Q15. During my recovery, will I lose weight? 

A: Mostly. Most people lose between 5–10 pounds during the first month of their recovery. (but I don’t know about the accuracy of that statement). It’s also not necessary that you will lose weight as this will depend on how well you keep your nutrition up. If you’re getting the right balance of everything, it is entirely possible that you don’t lose much weight.


Activity:

Q16. I don’t like sitting at home for hours and hours. Can I start some outdoor activities?

A: No! Unfortunately you can’t. Broken bones can take up to six months or more to fully heal, and so any activity that involves something affecting your face is not allowed. While at that point you might feel fit enough to start into some sports, you still need to be careful. At three months, however, you might have the green light to try some non-impact activities like walking, cycling, swimming, and general exercise. But, if you’re unsure- talk to your surgeon as they will know best what is ok for you, and what is not.

Q17. This recovery is taking forever and I’m tired of being at home all the time. What can I do to get out of the house?

A: The first part of your recovery may require you to stay in bed and orient your head in a certain way to avoid bleeding and other things. However, it won’t be long before you will want to be somewhere other than your bed. Don’t rush this part of your recovery. Within days of the surgery, you will be encouraged to walk and move around as much as possible so whenever you’re ready to get out of bed a little more, start by moving around your house a bit, finding other places to sit to watch a little TV or to read a book. Don’t push yourself too hard with the activity early on. The idea is to get a little bit of blood flowing around, but not to break a sweat. But also, don’t feel like you have to stay at home all the time either. After the first two weeks, most people in the public won’t even notice that your face is recovering from jaw surgery so don’t worry about going into and interacting with the world around you again!

Q18How long does it take to recover from jaw surgery?

A: Full recovery is 9-12 months. It will take approximately 90 days (3 months) for the jaw bones to fuse back together. The swelling takes 4-6 weeks, and the rest is mostly regaining sensation to the numb parts of your face, muscles returning to their new position and all that. After the swelling dissipates, you will also notice stiff areas around your face- these stiff areas are where scar tissues have formed and will take up to 6 months to be re-absorbed back into the body. 


Cleaning/Hygiene:

Q19. I just got home from the hospital, and ewww, I really just want to take a shower. Is it safe to do so?

A: You can certainly take a shower, and in fact doing so can be quite comforting. However, a couple points of caution: The high humidity and heat in a shower may induce some bleeding, so be prepared for that if it happens. Also, you may want to find a small stool to sit on, inside the shower as you may feel slightly dizzy due to medications.

Q20. I have an urge to blow my nose/pick the giant globs of dried blood and snot. Is it a good idea to clean that stuff up as much as possible?

A: Wrong! Don’t blow your nose! Don’t do anything that can cause many bad things to happen, including busting stitches, getting fluids in places they shouldn’t be, and causing pressures in parts of your face while they’re still mending together. Also, if your surgery involved upper jaw surgery, blowing your nose could lead to getting a sinus infection. As far as picking your nose goes, well it’s just a bad idea in general. But, picking at some of those juicy looking large dry chunks of bloody snot can break the scar off a blood vessel and cause bleeding which will do nothing more than to continue the cycle of having large dry chunks of bloody snot in your nose. The reason why your nose is so nasty/snotty/bloody is because, the anesthesiologist sticks a tube up your nostril to help you breathe during the surgery. So in that case, the best thing to do is very carefully apply some Vaseline with a Q-tip to the inside of your nostrils (that’s basically what I’d been doing so far) to keep things moist.

Q21. Help! My breath is terrible. I want to brush and clean my teeth. Is it safe to do so?

A: Yes, but, very carefully! Your breath may be indicative of the fact that you are not allowed to brush your teeth or floss during the first several weeks of your recovery. Also, remember that you have fresh stitches and very sensitive stuff inside (you probably won’t feel much of it but it’s always better to take precautions). While brushing, don’t overdo it. Remember to use a toothbrush with soft bristles. However, if you feel you’re not comfortable using a toothbrush, you could always opt for mouthwashes which I think is a much safer option (at least for the first few weeks). For cleaning your teeth, the saline (salt-water) solution is the best. (the doctor will provide you with one) however if you don’t have one, simply dissolve 2 teaspoons of household table salt for every 1 L of warm water.


General Questions:

Q22. Will I look different after jaw surgery?

A: This is perhaps the most common fear people have after having done their jaw surgery. But Yes. Jaw surgery is specifically performed to correct the deformity of your jaw. Hence, the surgery will balance out your face, giving it a more symmetrical result so you’ll surely notice subtle changes in your appearance afterwards. Remember that swelling takes a minimum of 3 months to go away, so try to avoid judging your appearance until then. While the subtle changes in your appearance may seem drastic to you but most people will not even notice that your face changed shape. Bonus point is that your overbite/underbite will no longer be present and your cheeks, nose, and chin may take on a different shape as well. The result you see 6th month post-operation is the result that you’ll probably live with your whole life.

Q23. Will I notice the change immediately?

A: Not really- Because your face is going to be really swollen right after the surgery. But, within a month, as the swelling goes down a little, your new face will begin to come into notice, with either a subtle or major change. Be prepared!

Q24. What kind of surgery did you have?

A: I had upper and lower jaw surgery plus surgery to reduce my chin (genioplasty). My upper jaw was moved forward and leveled out. My lower jaw was moved backward. I also had a bone graft from my right hip to reinforce my upper jaw. 

Q25. Will I need to wear braces before and after the surgery? If yes, for how long? What about retainers?

A: Yes, you’ll be expected to wear braces a month or two before your surgery after which you’ll still need to wear them for a couple of years however, that depends on your treatment plan and what your orthodontist says. Retainers will need to be worn right after your braces are removed. Some people make the mistake of not wearing retainers but trust me, it’s always better to wear them after the removal of braces as there are chances of your teeth growing out of shape/relapsing and if that happens, it can take over an year or two to settle back. So, wearing retainers will help your teeth to stay in their new position. Retainers are mostly worn for the same time as your braces or until your bite is stabilized. 

Q26. Why do I have to wear braces?

A: Braces straighten your teeth. During the surgery, your jaws have to be moved so it’s always better to have your teeth straightened in order to get that “perfect bite”.

Q27. Is jaw surgery serious?

A: Yes. It’s one of the most major and time-consuming surgery than all other bone surgeries. Recovery is difficult and can get really uncomfortable. You will be on a liquid diet for several weeks. There is a possibility your jaw will be wired shut. A splint will likely be fastened behind your upper jaw for several weeks to hold it in place. In my double jaw surgery, both my upper and lower jaws were moved. The only way to do this is to make incisions inside the mouth and physically move the jaws, then secure them with tiny titanium plates and screws. The plates and screws will remain inside your mouth and fastened to bone for the rest of your life, so most people rarely notice them, and you can’t touch or feel them since they’re under your gums.

Q28. Is jaw surgery worth it? Are you happy with your results?

A: This surgery shouldn’t be taken lightly but if you ask me, I’d say that I didn’t regret saying yes to this surgery because for me, my underbite had caused me with chewing problems and speech issues (more like lisping) which is why I thought I needed this surgery.

Q29. Will this surgery change my voice?

A: It’s not going to change the way you sound. But yes, if you had issues with lisping (more with the ‘X’, ‘S’ and ‘Z’ sounds) then that may not be an issue anymore. 

Q30. Is jaw surgery considered cosmetic/plastic?

A: Okay, there’s a vast difference between plastic surgery and Jaw surgery. In a jaw surgery, all incisions are made inside the mouth and no scars will be shown on the outer skin. So no, it’s not under plastic nor cosmetic.


Ya, that’s about it. Yet, if there’s more you want to ask me. As always, feel free to email or comment! Thanks for reading! 🙂 

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