Day 82: Recovery Tips

  • Pain: 0/10
  • Inconvenience: 2/10

Aye aye, captain

I’ve decided to cook up a nice dish of recovery tips here for anyone on the road to partake in the feast that is jaw surgery. We’ll start with an appetizer consisting of items you should have handy when you first arrive home from the hospital. The main course will consist of a plethora of useful recommendations, followed by a story about cat burglary for dessert.

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.

As for the story of cat burglary, my friend and I went to visit a mutual friend of ours a couple nights ago. We were going to surprise him with a couple of beers and catch up for a bit, but he failed to answer his phone when we arrived. Now, in order to understand this story, you must know that I’ve been fairly addicted to a game for Xbox called Assassin’s Creed II lately. It’s set in medieval Italy, and the character you control is able to run around cities while scaling buildings and jumping across rooftops. After realizing the door to our friend’s house was locked, I gave in to my crazy side and climbed up to his second-level balcony and let myself in through the patio door. I noticed he was watching TV in the room next to the balcony so, without making a sound, I snuck down the stairs, let my other friend inside, and then we both casually walked into the living room and offered the guy a drink.

The moral of the story is this: answer your phone when people call you. Locking your balcony’s sliding door probably isn’t such a bad choice either. Or maybe I should just stop trying to play out movies and video games in real life.

22 Comments

  1. Jade Phillipson

    June 15, 2015 at 5:46 am

    Hey I had double jaw on Thursday just wondered if you had any tips for me like how to sleep etc
    Thanks,

  2. Jennifer Schettone

    December 1, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Hi Graham,
    I’m 18 and was told I have to have double jaw surgery. I haven’t gotten the braces yet or even started the process cause I’m still not sure if it’s worth going through or not. The whole process is scary to me and I’m worried about every little thing that could possibly go wrong. I have had braces/pallet expenders/expanding retainers(upper and lower) in the past when I was about 7 or 8 and I obviously am still having trouble with my teeth/jaw today. I know the surgery is something I need to follow through with and your blog definitely made me feel better about it. I actually had tears in my eyes while reading parts of it haha but they were happy tears! I was wondering if you had any problems with your new face structor? Are you upset with it and wish you could go back? Or are you completely happy with it? What was it like when you first woke up from the surgery, were you scared, in pain? Did you panic? Also do you still have the metal plates/screws in your jaw or did you get them taken out? Do they bother you at all?
    Ever since they told me that I have to have this surgery done I’ve just been wanting to speak with someone who has already had it done, so your reply would mean the world to me.
    Your blog was extremely helpful and will definitely be reading it if I go through with my surgery. Thanks for taking the time to read this, it means a lot!

    • Hi Jennifer!

      I had the surgery over 3 years ago and I am super happy I went through with it. While the recovery was a frustrating 3 months, it wasn’t all too painful and I now smile more than ever before (and can speak clearly and chew properly and breathe easy).

      The idea of surgery can be frightening, I understand, but if it’s been deemed medically necessary for you and you have the money for it, I strongly recommend you get it out of the way as soon as you can. You can enjoy the results for the rest of your life. =)

      One thing to note is that you should only have the surgery if your jaw has stopped growing. For most people, this doesn’t occur until their early twenties, but it may be different for you. As long as your orthodontist has measured your jaw and is confident it hasn’t grown in the past year, you should be in good hands.

      All the best!

  3. Graham,

    Thanks for your reply. Saw my orthodontist yesterday and although she didn’t loosen the elastics, she has shown me how to change them, so I now feel a little more in control. Swelling is still present and I have an extremely stiff neck, but I’m getting there… Slowly!

    I wondered how you are 3 years on nearly? Has the surgery been beneficial? Do you have any regrets and have you had any longer lasting ill effects?

    • Brad, being three years post-op, I can honestly say the surgery was totally worthwhile for me. I can chew and breathe more easily, my speech has improved, and, now that I’m confident in my smile, I exercise that privilege more than ever before. The only lasting issue I have is numbness in part of my lower lip and chin, but I honestly don’t even notice it until someone asks. I have no regrets from the operation and I’m happy I went through with it. =)

  4. Hi Graham,

    I don’t expect that you’ll be looking at this site anymore, as it’s nearly 3 years old. I just wanted to say, however that I have found it to be very useful, especially as my surgeon was less accommodating when talking about recovery timescales. I understand to a degree that he doesn’t want to get my hopes up as we are all different and therefore recover at different rates, but it’s nice to get some idea. I only had the lower jaw done and am 1 week post surgery. Am seeing the orthodontist tomorrow and am hoping that she will loosen the elastics a little as the lack of opening of the mouth is what is causing me most unrest. The numbness is somewhat irritating too, I must admit!

    Anyway, thanks for creating the site and I look forward to make a full recovery in the near future.

    • Brad, I actually still check comments here on a daily basis to offer support for people like you. I couldn’t find this resource during my recovery, so I want to provide a sense of comfort and confidence for others going through the same thing. You’ll be able to find more more peace with your situation in about a week when your swelling begins to go down a bit. Stay strong! =)

  5. Sandra, good to hear from you! It’s funny that we think the worst consequence of the operation is the inability to eat rather than the pain. How gluttonous are we?! =)

    You’re destined to miss one delicious meal when you have jaw surgery. Whether it’s Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving is up to you.

  6. thanks graham for sharing your experience on this blog. today is my 30th day after my surgery, i had double jaw and my chin done which took them 10hrs to finish the operation. to be honest and fair, pain is not what i am concerned about anymore ITS FOOD WUT AM DYING FOR!! specially christmas is in two days!!!! i had an appointment with my surgeon yesterday and he asked me to give it another month on soft diet… anyway u must know wut am goin through hehe .. and for all whos thinkin about having their jaw done i would say GO FOR IT ull never regret it and as graham said before no pain no gain 😉 goodluck for me first:P and for you all..

  7. Jackie, you’re going to be a pro at this! You’re super young, which means you’re chock full of energy so your body will heal quickly and properly.

    Be grateful that once you’re my age, this will all be a very distant memory.

  8. I am hopefully getting my jaw surgery this coming up summer, and I am FREAKING out over all the recovery and stuff.. I’m only 15 years old so im grateful to be getting it so early, but im still really scared. Your tips have helped me. Thank you soo much for your blog!

  9. Kathy, I wish your son all the best. He’s lucky to be having the surgery so early in his life!

  10. Thanks for posting this blog. My 17 year old son is having the same surgery as you in a week. Also a Class 3 with a deviated septum issue too. I have been very nervous about what to expect following the surgery but feel so much better after reading about your experience. You look great! Thanks again.
    Kathy

  11. She will definitely be thanking you in a few days! Items like baby spoons and syringes are an invaluable resource for that first week or so.

  12. My daughter’s surgery is in 2 days. Thank you so much for this! She thinks I am going overboard and treating her like a baby getting the sippy cup and such. We’ll see. I think she will be thanking me for listening to you!!!!

  13. Aimee,

    Aquaphor is typically used as a healing ointment for babies, although it works incredibly well for cracked lips.

  14. Seriously, right? I can’t believe it, it’s impossible to get them. Hmmmm, something to think about. You buy them, send them to me, I’ll sell them and then we make a profit! Let’s do it! LOL I can’t believe they were making me get a script just to freakin’ eat! lol

  15. Thanks for the tips, ladies. It’s good to have more than a single set of advice.

    Aimee, syringes sound like a good market to get into down there. 😉

  16. Hmmmm, what’s Aquaphor? Is this something I wish I had even now??

  17. Regarding lip balm — I highly recommend getting Aquaphor (in the baby aisle) rather than a balm as a jaw patient’s lips can be quite swollen and painful post-op.

    If you’re a lucky sucker like me who never used a syringe, don’t forget to get a wide variety of eating implements — baby spoons, a sippy cup, paper cups, etc. You won’t know what you need until you’re ready to eat.

    Graham! You’re almost to 90 days! You look great. I hope your recovery continues to go well.

  18. P.S. Your smile looks FANTASTIC! 🙂

  19. Awesome cat burglary story….LOVE IT!!!!!

    May I add something? You’re in Canada. Thus, syringes are easy to come by. Here? Not a chance!! The hospital was going to send me home with one of them until we convinced them that I would need more. (seriously). Then….when those wore out, even after trying to oil them (which only worked for maybe one dinner), I went to get more from any pharmacy and even a medical supply store and they either a) didn’t have anything like them or b) I needed a prescription to even GET them! It’s ridiculous here in the US how hard they are to come by. So, for those in the US, be SURE to get an ample supply of syringes. I was fortunate to have a good friend that was able to send me some so I was able to continue to eat comfortably.

    Second….medication (and again, maybe this is more for the US folks), I had dimetapp, Afrin nose spray and Adult Liquid Tylenol on hand at ALL times. The tylenol was fantastic when the pain was there, but was more of a dull ache than anything and didn’t warrant full on pain meds.

    Hope this isn’t stepping on your toes, Graham…all your advice is fantastic, I should probably do this on my blog, as well at some point. Just giving my two cents! 🙂

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