Healing after jaw surgery
What comes after jaw surgery?
It’s one thing to get ready for your surgery. Directions are in no short supply, whether from your surgeon, dentist, or orthodontist. There are a lot of people working with you, and for good reason—this is an important event. Whether your jaw just grew a certain way, or you’re getting bite or alignment corrected, you’ve chosen to barrel through what you know will be an involved healing process.
Imagine yourself getting through the surgery, post-op and all. You can feel the sense of satisfaction, and a feeling of completion. After all the options, decisions, preparation and waiting, you can gratefully say, “it’s done.”
But then what?
An idea of what to expect after jaw surgery
Depending on the type of surgery and your condition going into it, hospital stays vary in length. You might have an acrylic bite splint wired to your upper teeth. In all cases, you’ll have guiding bands in place so that you can open your mouth while keeping everything in alignment.
You’ll leave the hospital with a prescription for a medication to manage pain. Swelling and numbness are typical after jaw surgery. In the first month, you’ll probably have between three and five appointments to check progress. If you do have a split, it will likely be removed after two weeks.
This first stage of healing includes the biggest interruptions to your daily grind. Your speaking will be limited, and you’ll have to be creative about what you eat. Home-made purees or smoothies will make up your diet for these first few weeks. But there are still more options than you might think. In general, think about:
- Blended purees can include meats and dairy—the more protein the better. Try putting meat into a food processor with tomato sauce or gravy. Mix in veggies like peas for added nutrition.
- Blend in cream or half-and-half to breakfast cereals. This gets you more protein, more fat and more calories—which your body needs while you’re recovering from surgery.
- Smoothies give you endless possibilities, especially when you begin to add protein powders or spices. Think about different combinations of fruits or greens, plus honey or cinnamon. You can even try adding mint.
Remember, you need calories and all your macronutrients, especially protein. These are the building blocks your body will use to speed up your healing process. So, get creative! You’ll be on this diet until your splint comes off. Next, you can to start eating soft foods like mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs.
Other maintenance as you heal
Once your splint is removed, you’ll be given jaw exercises to do. These will vary depending on the nature of your jaw surgery. Some of these might help make tweaks to your bite over the course of initial check-ups.
Oral hygiene is especially important during healing, even while you’re limited to a liquid diet. The wires and other pieces holding your jaw in place leave an open invitation for things to get caught. And, with your liquid diet you’ll probably be eating four to six times a day. This means you should be cleaning your teeth as many times. Without being able to open your mouth well to brush, water picks are a popular addition to your hygiene routine. You can also use small children’s toothbrushes.
The most important thing to maintain over time is your morale. Break healing down into shorter periods, and allow yourself to look forward to and then celebrate the next phase. You can do this! Corrective jaw surgery makes a difference in the whole functionality of your jaw and teeth, and sometimes the aesthetics of your face. Just remind yourself why you’re doing this.