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 ofΒ lonelinessΒ 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.

Want to chat live with other patients?

Recovering from jaw surgery can be lonely. That's why several of us hang out in a live chat group where we support each other before the surgery and during the recovery. There are over 75 people from 20 countries chatting right now and it's free to join.

(example of a recent conversation)

42 Comments

  1. Hey there,
    I’m 3 weeks away from having double jaw surgery for my underbite. I cannot believe it’s almost surgery day. Thank you for all of the tips and this website, it’s helped me a lot in preparing for the procedure. I’m a tad nervous for returning to my college classes/both of my jobs…but I think I’ll be okay. Ah!

    • Hello! My name is Frida. I am a 16 year old that underwent double jaw surgery six days ago. The hardest thing for me is sleeping. I get congested through my throat and nose but I do use saline spray and sleep in a sitting position.

      Any tips?

      Thank you so much for writing this blog, I’ll be reading it throughout my recovery every day!

  2. Nicholas McHugh

    July 26, 2016 at 8:36 am

    This is awesome, wish I found this sooner. I’m at day 7 with my double jaw surgery. This recovery is no joke, I only thought I was prepared!

  3. Hello everyone,

    I am so glad to have found this site. I am 3 weeks post-op and will be getting my splint removed in 5 days. I had a double jaw surgery for overbite. I had a blood clot in the right cheek which is slowly going away. My lips and chin are still completely numbed with little swelling in lower lip. Other than that, the surgery went very well. No pain and no complications

    I lost about 10lbs in the last 3 weeks and I was already under weight going into the surgery, but in good shape nontheless. I am thinking about going to the gym to do some light weight lifting, but not sure if it’s too soon. Any advice?

    • John, awesome to hear you’ll be free from the splint next week! Regarding the gym, you can technically begin exercising as soon as you have the energy to do so, but it’s very important that you do not exert yourself too hard. At 3 weeks post-op, the bone in your jaw has not yet fused back together and your incisions have not yet healed, so too much exertion or pressure can cause problematic movements in your jaw. Make sure you move slowly and lift only light weight. When I returned to the gym at 6 weeks, I started out lifting 25% of my former maximums. Good luck! πŸ’ͺ

  4. Sebastian Marland

    July 14, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Hello folks, I am day 2 soon day 3 post op, I had a bit of my upper jaw cut to correct a gummy smile, my chin was pushed forward and i had 4 wisdom teeth pulled out.
    I am having great difficulty breathing and swallowing as i have a extrmely numb face. Hence i cannot sleep a wink, since the operation I have slept maybe 10 hours, probably less. I am really dehydrated because my throat and mouth are really Swolen. Furthermore, even with sleeping medication (strong ones too, with opium extract) I cannot sleep.
    I know I am not alone in this horrid struggle, do you guys have any tips for the the week post op please. Thanks guys 😘 Really glad I found this community.

    • Sebastian, please be encouraged that the first two weeks are the most frustrating and everything will become easier once they are finished. What you’re experiencing is unfortunately quite normal, but there are certainly a few things to can do to make life a bit more bearable right now.

      First, try buying something with menthol in it and smelling that a few times each day to clear your sinuses. This should open up your airways and make breathing a bit easier.

      Second, try to get outside for short walks a few times each day. Your body will thank you for the movement and fresh air.

      And third, find a television series you enjoy (hopefully one with multiple seasons available) and try to pass the time by watching it.

      The name of the game during the first couple of weeks is patience and survival, so you’re actually on the right path. Hang in there, try to keep yourself occupied, and life will be much better in less than two weeks! 😊

  5. Hello, i have posted a while ago about my double jaw surgery i had 7 months ago. My recovery went really well but was wondering if anyone has experience locked jaw after they had surgery. Ive had it number of times in the last 2 months. And today its been really bad. Taken all drugs i could take and nothing would calm the pain down.
    I went to see my surgeons last month but they didnt really answer my question why is does it.
    If anyone has experienced this please let me know what you have done to help or anyone got any suggestions please send them my way!! Thanks

  6. Hi graham,
    I’m actually 6 months post op and I just wanna thank you for your amazing blog which has been super helpful especially during my first few weeks of recovery. Reading what you have went through prior to my own surgery got me prepared for what was to come which was probably one of the reasons my recovery went really smoothly. So thank you for that.
    And to all the rest out there who are still afraid or thinking whether to do jaw surgery for your teeth, my advice is if you think it is necessary then just do it. You definitely wouldn’t regret it cos I sure didn’t and I’m living really happily with my new smile now:)

    • Nicholas, thanks for your kind words and I’m very happy to hear my daily rants here provided some comfort for you! Enjoy your new smile! 😁

  7. Alice Di Maggio

    July 11, 2016 at 4:15 am

    Hey Graham. I want to thank you for your amazing blog. Its nice to have a community that all understand what a crazy journey this is. I am only 10 days post op and am feeling very disheartened about the food situation and the uncomfortable nature of the whole thing…not being able to speak properly..excess saliva…drooling…heavy breathing. Your blog gives me the hope I need to know it will get better. It is hard to imagine right now but deep down I know it will. Many thanks too you. Alice

    • Alice, the good news is the first two weeks are the most frustrating and they will soon be in the past. Remember to go outside for short walks a few times each day to enjoy some fresh air and hang in there for just a little while longer! 😊

  8. I’m don’t really like prune juice but if it helps then I’m willing to buy the stuff. I’ll be getting double jaw surgery soon. I like to be prepared ahead of time so I don’t have to worry about it afterwards.

    • Zequek, I know prune juice is generally not a crowd favorite, but I assure you the extra fiber will be very helpful during the first few weeks. Wishing you all the best with the surgery!

  9. You mentioned that you stayed with your parents after surgery. How long did that last? How long before you feel comfortable by yourself?

    • GKL, I stayed with my parents for 2 weeks and then moved back to my own place. After the first 2 weeks, I felt comfortable taking care of myself. 😊

      • Thx.

        What was the main thing you needed help with from them? Preparing “food” and med?

        I am out in California by myself and will be having the double jaw surgery in July. Consider staying with friends, but even with this arrangement, I will be alone while they are at work. Wondering if I will be okay or I should reconsider my arrangement

        • The primary reason for spending the first 2 weeks with family or a friend is in case of an emergency such as choking or extreme pain. Both are unlikely, but possible, so it’s important to have an adult who can help you through these situations.

          Besides that, the initial weeks can be quite depressing because you cannot eat, you won’t have much energy, and you might not be able to speak clearly. Being alone is not a good option when you are in this state, so even being able to see your friends when they return from work will be beneficial.

          The choice is yours, of course, but I do recommend staying with a good friend if that’s a possibility. I found that having “life in the house” was very valuable. 😊

  10. Alexis DeJesus

    June 7, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    hi!
    I just had a double jaw surgery on Friday and im having a lot of difficulty swallowing due to my sore throat as well as the splint. I can barely drink anything without it spilling down my face so I am dehydrated and weak. any tips at all?

    • Hey, stick it out. The first week was awful for me, but before you know it things get better.

      Try sucking on ice cubes or eating frozen yogurt/ice cream. This will make your throat feel better and also give you some nutrition. Sometimes though you have to just suck it up and slam some Gatorade. The more you eat, hydrate, and stay active, the quicker you will recover. I went on walks every day until I felt able to exercise, and I always took my pain meds 15mins before eating.

      I was intimated for 11hrs and my throat was easily the worst thing. I just kept putting ice chips in my mouth, and then when I had to get nutrition I would load a syringe and just go for it until all of it was down.

      I used whole milk and protein and PB. The more dense it is caloric ally the less you have to eat.

      I hope it helps! And stay with it, by week 5 you’ll be out and about enjoying life.

    • In my third week of recovery at the moment. I find that if you stay really positive and active that first week it really helps. I don’t have a splint but I found that using a paper towel for a bib standing in front of the mirror and tilting my head back seemed to do the trick. Stay on top of meals, lots of protein.
      I was going on walks the first day out of the hospital but by the third day I was getting a bit light headed from over doing it so I had to slow down a bit. Just go with what your body tells you. One week post op the surgeon was very happy with how much the swelling had gone down. Like they say the sooner you get back to your normal routine the faster things will heal. Second week was a bit hard because it appeared that my upper jaw had been moved to much due to my swelling going down so much on the rest of my face opposed to my upper lip and cheek bones. Do not worry about appearance because you really won’t be able to tell for weeks to come. Stay positive and good luck

  11. Hey Graham,

    I had TMJ surgery back in late December. The recovery process has gone great except for the fact that on my lower teeth between my canines on both sides spaces have opened. My surgeon checked and they were not there before treatment. Is this normal? Will they close over time?

    • Kelly, are you still wearing braces? If you are, it should be no problem for your orthodontist to close those gaps.

      If you are already out of braces, then it’s generally the job of a retainer or permanent wire on the back of your teeth to keep them in position. I recommend calling your orthodontist to ask what the options are for closing these new gaps.

      I hope you can get back to the smile you paid for! 😊

  12. Hey graham!

    Just had my operation today (single jaw, lower, underbite correction) and my swelling is pretty drastic. If I used heat sooner would that help move the swelling long? Also, I am wired shut as opposed to elastics, do you think my surgeon might give me the option of switching to elastics In a few weeks time?

    • Alec, welcome to the other side! Regarding heat vs. ice, I recommend following the instructions the nurses and surgeon gave you. I think I used ice for the first 3 days and then heat thereafter. As far as I understand, ice works to keep your swelling at bay while heat serves to soothe your muscles so your jaw doesn’t spasm. So I think surgeons prefer to ice your jaw for the first 3 days until the swelling peaks and then use heat following that to provide some relief throughout the day.

      As for being wired shut, your surgeon will likely switch you to elastics once your bone begins to heal. The first 2 weeks are extremely frustrating regardless of whether you’re wired shut or have really tight elastics in, so do your best to get through them and your surgeon will probably switch you to elastics to give you a bit more movement in the third week. Hope this helps! 😊

  13. I’m two weeks PO and my bite is way off. I had top brought out and up and bottom brought in. Now when I bite I have a large gap from from my top and bottom teeth. Will this heal over time? I still have bands on but they only slightly guide my jaw to the correct bite.

    • Tyler, I had an open bite after surgery as well, but over time, my teeth grew back together just as my surgeon said they would. It took about a year for this to happen, but your body should be able to correct this as long as your jaws are in the correct position. Hope this helps!

  14. Thoughts on additional supplementation? I was going to implement glutamine, protein powder and several vitamins that help recovery of joints, nerves and bones. I think adding more MGs of these can greatly help the recovery process. From a bodybuilder’s standpoint, glutamine greatly decreases the recovery time for muscle soreness. Do you think this could help with jaw recovery?

    • Craig, as long as these supplements don’t conflict with your pain medication and antibiotics, I say go for it. Since eating solid food is difficult or disallowed during the initial recovery, it’s really tough to get enough calories in each day, hence why most people lose so much weight during their recovery. You may be able to retain much of your muscle mass if you can supplement your diet with protein, vitamins, etc. Good luck! 😊

  15. Heat? I thought icing was supposed to help with swelling.

    • Michael, the heat vs. ice recommendation will change based on your surgeon, but I was told that it’s best to use ice for the first few days to help curb the swelling, then switch to heat for the remainder of the recovery in an effort to calm your nerves and soothe your skin. As far as I understand, ice is only useful until the swelling peaks (which is on the third day), so it’s more comfortable to use heat after that.

      • I sort of feel like even though they say the ice does nothing, It helps. When I wake up in the morning, or if i have been talking a lot or something that stresses out my jaws, I feel swollen and tired, and throwing some cold packs on is much better than heat for me.

        I kind of got lucky. For some reason… My surgeon decided that I did not need to be wired shut, nor did i need elastics…at all. They did a leforte on my upper jaw, and advanced my lower jaw forward, as well as slid my chin forward. They said the way it healed, my jaw went right into the splint so they didn’t need to use anything to hold my teeth together.

        I have to have the splint in for 6 weeks though, does anyone have any way to clean this gross thing?? i use a water pick and brush, but junk just keeps coming out, and my lips and cheeks still can’t swish things around.

        • Joe, lucky you for not being wired shut β€” that sounds a bit nicer than the alternative. From the people I’ve spoke with, using a Waterpik is the most effective way to clean around your splint. Truth be told, it’s kind of just a gross appliance and dealing with bad breath and bits of food always being stuck underneath it is just part of the recovery. But just think… after 6 weeks, it will be gone forever! 😊

  16. Great tips and info! Thank you!

  17. Hey Graham.,

    I am 7 weeks post surgery now. My surgeon told me at 16 weeks I can eat anything. What do you think is ok to eat until then besides pasta, sushi, ice cream? Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Kelly, to be honest, the only soft foods I ate at first were pasta, mashed potatoes, and soups. I suppose you could also make casseroles as long as you avoid putting overly chewy or hard ingredients (eg. steak) in them. In general, let your pain be your guide. If your teeth or jaw are hurting (not the feeling of sore muscles, but actual pain), it’s best to avoid that food for another week or two. Hope this helps!

      • Thanks graham
        I also have a big open bite in week 3 now after surgery bands off and it’s really frustrating mr the right side is touching at the back ant left and front not touching at all
        Will this correct it’s self it will dental work eventually help ???
        Try break was in 3 spots left middle and right side they could only pin And plate middle and left so the right side is the spot touching at the back

        • Hi Amanda, open bites are fairly common as a result of this surgery, so there’s no need to worry. Your teeth will naturally grow until they encounter opposition, so your open bite should close by itself over time. I had an open bite on both sides of my mouth after having surgery and it took approximately 6 months for my bite to correct itself. I encourage you to have patience for a few more months. 😊

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