Common Questions

Following is a list of the most common questions I’ve received about double jaw surgery. If your question is not answered below, feel free to ask about it in the comments and I’d be happy to respond there.

Before the surgery:

After the surgery:

Cries for help:


Why should I get jaw surgery?

There are several reasons to undergo jaw surgery:

  • To be able to chew with all your teeth
  • To speak without a lisp
  • To speak without spitting
  • To stop your mouth from hanging open
  • To stop breathing through your mouth and start breathing through your nose
  • To change your appearance (side profile)

These reasons are all explained on the Reasons to Get Jaw Surgery page.

Is jaw surgery painful?

Jaw surgery is usually not painful. This may be difficult to believe, but since your nerves become bruised and numb during the surgery, you don’t actually feel any of the pain. By the time feeling returns to your face, most of the pain is gone.

Granted, you’ll experience a bit of pain when you yawn, sneeze and cough. It’ll also hurt when your jaw spasms (and it will spasm for the first month), but for the most part, you should not experience much pain at all.

How long does it take to recover from jaw surgery?

It will take 90 days (3 months) for a full recovery after jaw surgery. Most of your feeling and energy will be back after 2 months, but it takes a full 90 days for your bone to fuse back together. A full range of motion in your jaw will return depending on how much you’re moving it around, so make sure you follow the exercises your surgeon gives you.

How much does jaw surgery cost?

Jaw surgery costs roughly $5000 in Canada, but that price may differ significantly in other provinces and countries. If your surgery is deemed cosmetic (instead of “medically necessary”), the cost will be higher because you’ll be required to cover the hospital bills. Sadly, patients in the US have seen jaw surgery bills in excess of $50,000.

What should I buy to prepare for recovery?

You can find a full list of items that with help you through the recovery at the Must-Have Recovery Products page.


Will I look different after jaw surgery?

You will notice subtle changes in your appearance following jaw surgery. Your overbite/underbite will no longer be present and your cheeks, nose, and chin may take on a different shape as well. My cheeks filled out a lot as a result of my surgery.

How much weight will I lose after jaw surgery?

Most people lose between 5–10 pounds during the first month of their recovery. The general rule of thumb is that you will lose weight until you reach your natural body weight.

Will I experience numbness after jaw surgery?

Yes, you will experience extreme numbness following jaw surgery. During the operation, several nerves in your face and chin have to be moved around. When you move a nerve, it becomes bruised, and when a nerve is bruised, it stops providing sensations, thus giving you that numb feeling (more on this in my Day 20 post).

Will I get all of my feeling back after jaw surgery?

70% of patients regain full feeling, while 30% may experience slightly numb areas in their cheeks, chin and lower lip for the rest of their lives. The feeling you have after 6 months post-op is likely what you’ll live with for the rest of your life.

What can I eat after jaw surgery?

You’ll be on a strict liquid diet following jaw surgery. Buy lots of Boost, Ensure or Carnation supplements and learn to make smoothies, because these will be your staple foods for at least the first 2 weeks. I had to eat them for 8 weeks, but my surgery was a bit more invasive than most. You’ll probably have to administer your food through a syringe for the first week as well.

Once your surgeon gives you permission to start chewing again, you can begin to eat soft foods such as pasta and mashed potatoes. During the weeks following your re-entry into the realm of chewing, you’ll be able to eat whatever is comfortable. Don’t expect to tear into a steak as soon as you’re allowed to chew again, though.

If you have the following implements, you should survive perfectly fine:

  • A reliable blender (this is extremely important, as you’ll be blending almost everything)
  • Smoothie materials (ice cream, yogurt, milk, bananas, strawberries, granola, peanut butter, honey, etc.) — Recipe
  • Soup (you’ll have to blend everything except tomato soup)
  • Ensure, Boost or Carnation (I drank 3 of these per day during my liquid diet phase)
  • Prune juice (you’ll need the fiber in it)
  • Whole milk (you’ll need all the calcium you can get so your bones heal back just as strong as they were before)
  • Water (make sure you drink at least 1 L of water per day; drinking 2 L per day is a much better option)

The most important item on that list is water. If you don’t drink enough water each day, you’ll become dehydrated and sick, and your bowel movements won’t feel good because none of the fiber you’re eating will dissolve into your body.


Help, I’m experiencing pain!

If your pain is chronic (ie. consistent and throbbing), you may have an infection and should schedule a visit with your surgeon just to be safe.

On the other hand, if your pain comes in small bouts, it’s likely your nerves reawakening or your teeth being pulled by the elastics. In this case, just be patient and the pain will subside in due time. If you were prescribed pain medication, that may help as well.

Help, my breath is terrible!

At times, 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 recovery. To aid in freshening your breath, try gurgling with warm salt water a few times each day. Soon enough, you’ll be given the go-ahead to brush and floss again.

Help, my teeth are no longer touching!

An open bite is a common problem following jaw surgery. Fear not, however, because your teeth will naturally grow until they encounter opposition (in the form of your other jaw), so this problem will slowly correct itself over time.

Help, my jaw movement is not returning!

If you have been given the green light to resume eating regular food, but the movement in your jaw doesn’t seem to be returning, try whistling and chewing gum each day. Whistling will help to break up scar tissue, while chewing gum will stretch the muscles in your jaw.

Help, I don’t look like myself anymore!

This is perhaps the most common fear people have following jaw surgery. Remember that swelling takes a minimum of 3 months to go away, so try to avoid judging your appearance until that point.

Also, keep in mind that you are your own worst critic because you’ve been seeing your face in the mirror every single day for most of your life. While the subtle changes in your appearance seem drastic to you, most people will not even notice that your face changed shape.

Want to connect with other jaw heroes?

Recovering from jaw surgery can be lonely. That's why many of us hang out in a Facebook group where we support each other leading up to surgery and during recovery. There are hundreds of people from all over the world chatting right now and it's free to join.

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31 Comments

  1. This page hits close to home for me. I was hit by a car 7 years ago in 2007 and was knocked into a coma and woke up and had a new face. Well almost new, my jaw was rebuilt and I had plastic surgery all done. My jaw was wired shut for 3 months after my accident. Reading all the comments and your article really reminds me that I am normal as a lot of the stuff that bothers me other people talk about. I am 29 years old and the accident changed my life and I am very lucky to be alive. My jaw feels weird when it is cold, pretty much weird all the time. I have implants for the bottom teeth so that probably doesn’t help the feelings but nothing painful so I am thankful.

    I am actually wondering since I never asked how long the surgery was, how long was my surgery or how long did it take to rebuild my face?

    PEACE!

  2. Laura, I too have upper and lower gums numbness + bottom lip and chin numbness after 2 years…..eating is strange, as the numbness causes a feeling of needing to wipe my lips – I’m 69, so maybe age has something to do with this rather severe numbness!??

  3. Im one year post op.. but i still have braces on 🙁

    My ortho has been trying to close my posterior open bite but with little success. Now he thinks my molars have fused to my jaw bone. Since he cant close the gap he is suggesting crowns to build my teeth up to make them touch.
    Anybody else have this issue?

    • Same issue here Brent. I am 2 weeks post-op, with posterior open bite, with a few ankylose molars. My surgeon was unable to close my bite completely, especially on one side, so ortho will have no luck. How did the crowns work out for you?

  4. Parathesias can and do happen after surgery. My chin and lip were numb for the first month then from month 2 I began feeling burning and stinging and it’s still here. This is almost 4 months with it. I’m on elavel and gabapentin to calm it down. I do not have an infection. I have a face pain doctor. Graham, this is not common after this surgery but I feel you should let readers know this can happen since I’m living w this daily

  5. Graham,

    Graham was very kind to us. My son had upper jaw surgery only (was scheduled for both). Remember everyone heals differently. I didn’t prepare for better bedding for parent if sleeping in the hospital room. Good idea if you have to travel to be there early stay in a hotel close to the hotel if you can. We were very blessed. Good well to all. Take care, Cindi

  6. Hello my name is wisdom I was wondering how were you able to cough sneeze or yawn after the surgery or did they give you anything two make sure you did not do such a thing

  7. @Laura – After two years I believe that whatever feeling you have is what you will be left with. I had my surgery on March 19th of this year at Madigan Army Medical Center. The orthognathic surgeons there are some of the best in the world. They deal with (for the lack of better terms) “blown up” soldiers regularly, so they have a ton of experience with this. They told me that what comes back in the first 6 (up to maybe 9) months is what you will be left with. My husband and I have both had this done there, he 2 years before me. He got 98% of feeling back. I am only 4 months post op and still have some numbness. They also said it is related to your age. The older you are, the less likely to regain all feeling. I hope this helps.

    • Omg! I am so happy to read this. In a few short months I will be having my double jaw surgery at Madigan and I have been super nervous. So nervous that I can’t sleep at night. I have been searching high and low about reveiws about Madigans Oral surgeons but came up with nothing. This makes me feel so much better!

  8. Hi Everyone,
    Tomorrow marks my 2 YEAR post-op day, double jaw surgery and genioplasty (took a little notch off my chin)>.

    I AM STILL NUMB. I hate to say this to discourage others but I’m on tonight hoping for someone to tell me a solution???

    My upper and lower gums, bottom lip and chin, and behind my nose are all SUPER annoyingly numb. I hate it.

    Is there something I can do? I’m 41 years old, so I know maybe age has to do something with it??

    Anyone else have that much numbness after 2 years?

  9. It has been exactly ten months since my jaw surgery..

    I have no feeling in my gums, top teeth, too lip, nose and some parts of my face. I got my nose pierced and didn’t feel that. When I brush my teeth, I brush them so hard I don’t know they are bleeding. I can bite my top lip and not realise I bit so hard that it needs stitches. The doctors have said that the feeling will come back but I don’t believe the feeling ever will. I get tingling sensation every now and then too. Have you still got nerve damage?

    It’s winter here and my jaw has been killing me. It is so exhausting to eat because my face is aching because of how cold it is. The doctors said that my screws will react to the weather. Have you had a problem with this?

    Look forward to hesring from you.

  10. Hi Graham. First I would like to say thanks for creating such a wonderful blog for people like us to go to as a resource and for support. I really appreciate it. I hope nobody minds me posting my experience on here, because my situation with my jaw is not because of double jaw surgery,which looks to be like the commonplace subject for this forum. I actually had my jaw broken during an attack from a resident at my job, it happened fast and was shielded from a co-worker, so I didn’t even see the hit,but did feel it. I actually didn’t know my jaw was broken when it took place though. After the hit,i immeadiately threw down my attacker and finished my shift at work for the remaining six hours,then also went home and went to sleep with a tad soreness,but definately didn’t think my jaw was broke. As it turned out,when I woke up, Iknew something was wrong. My tooth felt a little funny and I had some discomfort. I took myself to the hospital and after the x-rays I was told Ihad a broken jaw and don’t plan on eating corn on the cob for fourth of July. This all happened June 21. I had surgery on the 23rd and after I awoke was definately in some discomfort. Of course most of this was from the idea of being wired shut. I had swollen on the left side of my face the size of a big league baseball and I am not exaggerating! I can say that I was in most of my pain from the spasms most of you hav e mentioned on here. The spasms were like teeth trying to exit our mouth. That’s the best way I can describe it. And it sucks when they happen but being in that hospital bed it was nothing a little morphine couldn’t take care of..and wow is that a powerful drug! I never had been through it or felt anything in my body like that..its like poison for a few seconds when they injected me with it but then its a pleasant serene pain destroyer! After my release from the hospital the next day, and over the next two weeks I realized these “spasms” weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. My doctor gave me percocet (another helluva drug,which I never crossed paths with in life) to quickly rid that pain when it came,which was mostly at nite. Now I am a guy that has a super tolerance for pain,( after all I finished working a shift and went home to sleep and didn’t even know I had a broken jaw),but man these little darn spasms hurt like a bitch albeit just for two or three aching seconds. The thing that bothered me most during my recovery,(which I write now as I am in week five with jaw wired shut), is not being able to talk. That’s the big frustration part. The food thing through a straw doesn’t bother me at all because I have the discipline for that since I have a wresling background and had stright diets and weight loss tactics and crazy coaches lol. I have some worries though Graham. My next doc visit is on Tuesday and I am due to get these wires out. It will be the sixth week post op. I see all these posts about people struggling to open the jaw. But I just find it hard to digest. I feel strong right now in my jaw area and even told my girlfriend I’m gonna want to open up wide after he takes the wires out lol. My main questions are,how does the taking of the wires out happen? What should I expect? By the way, I did have a plate inserted with threw screws during my surgery. I’m sure I will have more questions before and after Tuesday. Thanks Graham!

  11. Hi Graham,

    I am 8 days post surgery and still have a lot of nasal congestion. It’s annoying, but really I’d like to find out if it is normal to still have the congestion. The various sprays don’t really help. Do you remember when your nose cleared up? I hope this is just normal and will get better with time!

    Thanks!

    Stacey

    • Stacey, nasal congestion is normal for roughly the first month of recovery. Since you are not supposed to blow your nose (due to the possibility of rupturing blood vessels that were damaged during the operation), I found the best course of action was to breathe in anything containing menthol. I recall Vaseline being helpful in temporarily clearing up my sinuses. At the end of the day, patience is the key, though. =)

  12. Hey Graham, I just wanted to thank you so much for having this blog. I’m on day 7 post op and it hasn’t been then greatest, but every time I feel as though it’s too much I look at this blog and I end up feeling so much better. My surgery was a double jaw, and when they did the upper jaw they found some nasal polyps and removed them. If you don’t know what they are, they just some obstructions in the nasal cavity that keep the airway from being cleared and cause difficulty breathing and smelling. Didnt know I had them but now I can breathe so easily!! Yay for one good thing. However, like I meantioned before it hasn’t always been good. My swelling has gone down a lot and I can completely feel my upper lip, and thus the stitches and where they put the plates in my upper jaw. It’s normal just pressure but when I try to laugh or smile it really hurts. The constant bloody nose doesn’t help either (although that might be from the polyp removal). Do you know any tips for that, or even when that pain stops? I’d really love to know. I’m writing this on my phone because my computers not set up from the move yet so I’m sorry for any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Thank you again for doing such a great job on this blog!!!

    • Savannah, that’s great to hear that you got a bonus fixup during the surgery. As frustrating as laughing and smiling are at this point in your recovery, it’s normal for those actions to cause pain for the first 2–3 weeks due to major swelling. My honest advice is to try to avoid these two actions until your lips heal to a point where they no longer split. As far as aiding in that process, Vaseline is likely the best choice. Best of luck!

  13. Graham,

    Just a quick message to say thank you for replying to my message I sent you back in May. So sorry I didn’t thank you sooner. I am much better now still have certain meats I can’t bite into but I am now 4 1/2 months down the track from surgery & things have improved.

  14. ManitobaStudent

    July 6, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Hi I know this is really old but I need some help. I have a crossbite, my jaw is obviously shifted, my teeth are wore down and some chipped, I get lock jaw and snapping/popping noises from time to time. I have problem chewing because of major pain from my teeth on one side. I also get bad headaches and sore neck. My jaw gets sore easily, I constantly bite down on my tounge and cheek but I can’t help it. I’ve been to different dentists that “tried” to help but only made the problem worse. Now I never want to visit another dentist from bad past experiences. I want to get it fixed but don’t want another dentist screwing around with my teeth. Is there a specialist that can look at my jaw and teeth? Will surgery fix it? How much will this cost in Manitoba? I’m not covered, I’m just a university student working p/t. I’m getting desperate for help since it’s getti worse. Money is one of my biggest concerns because like I said I’m not covered.
    Please any advice/ suggestions and any other help is much appreciated!

    • Manitoba Student, many of the problems you mentioned can be fixed with jaw surgery. While I cannot answer all your questions (since I’m not sure how healthcare in Manitoba works), I would encourage you to go for a free consultation with an oral surgeon and ask for their professional opinion. Good luck!

  15. Hi Graham…I had double jaw surgery in October of 2013. I had a wonderful recovery however I am very concerned about this numbness in my bottom lip. Since it has been 9 months I am so worried that it will not go away. I got my braces off and thought that would help which it surprisingly did somewhat. But now I am just wondering if there’s any hope for my bottom lip Lol. Well do you know if there is anything that I can do to get the feeling back? I would love your input and opinion it would be greatly appreciated

    • Tiffany, the feeling you have at 9 months post-op is likely what you’ll be left with. I also have permanent numb patches on my bottom lip. Your brain will adjust to the numb patches and you should not even be aware of them soon enough. As a note of encouragement, I’ve met people whose feeling returned a full 2 years after they had the surgery, so there’s always hope. =)

  16. Graham this blog is fantastic. Im due for surgery on 16/7/14 and to say that I am apprehensive is an understatement. Im due for upper and lower jaw surgery and the thought and prospects of not being able to eat, speak or function normally is gonna drive me insane! Im an active 41yr old and like many of the bloggers I have now been slightly reassured that everything will be ok!!! Ok iv had to cancel a holiday as iv been told that im not allowed to fly within 12 wks of surgery but having had braces on for nearly 3 yrs and surgery, I can take a holiday at any time cant I?! Think im so looking forward to looking different, eating better and not spitting and drooling over everyone. Yip surgery will be ok, the afterwards bit may be slightly uncomfortable but it cant be any worse than child birth right???

    • Peggy, I would imagine child birth is much more painful than this operation (though I cannot relate myself, haha). I’ve met many people your age who went through with the surgery and had no issues recovering, so know that you are not the first. Just remember to keep yourself busy during those first couple weeks of recovery so you don’t get too bored. Television series, books, and going outside for walks help a lot. =)

  17. Graham, thanks so much for your good advice and continuing positive outlook–it is so very inspirational and has certainly made a difference helping my daughter through this difficult surgery. I have a concern. She had the surgery (double jaw and a repeat upper palate widening) about 10 weeks ago. She is experiencing an increasing burning sensation in her lower lip and tightness in her chin for about the past two weeks. The concern is that the discomfort is increasing rather than decreasing with time. Have you heard of this happening? Her surgeon is rather cavalier about it saying it will get better with time.

    • Hi Jane,

      I would usually attribute a burning sensation to a person’s nerves reawakening, even at the 10-week mark. Nerves may jump around for up to 6 months following the operation.

      However, the fact that it sounds painful is odd at this point. If it’s an infection, you should be able to see redness in the skin inside her mouth. If the skin looks okay, I would honestly give it another week and see if the problem goes away. If not, you may want to request an x-ray from her surgeon to ensure the brackets on her jaw have not slipped.

      As for tightness of the chin, this could be related to scar tissue, so whistling will help break that up. Hope this helps! =)

  18. Hey there! I’m supposed to have my underbite jaw surgery in about a year and a half. I will be in school at the time, and was wondering if you thought I’d be able to continue classes after 3 weeks of rest. I would have it done at the very beginning of 2016.

    Also, I am very insecure about the thought of having major swelling when going back to school. How much of the swelling goes away in the first couple weeks?

    • Nicole, it generally takes approximately one month before you’re able to communicate clearly again and swelling may be quite intense for the first six weeks of recovery. I would recommend having the surgery at the beginning of summer holidays, if possible. =)

  19. Hey Graham,
    I had my 3 week post op meeting with my surgeon after having double jaw surgery. He gave me the go ahead to start eating soft foods and, to my surprise, removed my elastics (I was wearing them 24/7 up to that point). I’ve read a couple of people’s experience with jaw surgery and it seems like almost everyone had to continue wearing elastics under they returned to orthodontics. I’m a little nervous that without the elastics my bite might shift. It seems like my midline may have shifted a little, but not sure if that’s just me being paranoid. Have you heard of other people having their elastics removed so soon/before returning to ortho work? Thanks for your insight.
    Ray

    • Ray, every surgeon has their own recovery program for patients, but I think most of them involve wearing your elastics until returning to the orthodontist. To be safe, you can even just wear your elastics at night to ensure your teeth stay in position until you visit your orthodontist again. As always, it’s best to ask your surgeon or orthodontist personally, since they may have valid reasons for asking you to refrain from wearing them. Good luck!

  20. Thanks, Graham! That is encouraging. 🙂

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