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How to recover from jaw surgery

Updated November 21, 2016

Recovering from Maxillofacial surgery (jaw surgery) is a long process and is both painful and uncomfortable regardless of the amount of pain medication your doctor prescribes; however, post-operative recovery can be simplified in a number of ways, ensuring a more comfortable experience all around.

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  1. Drink lots of fluids. Your body will need nutrients in order to heal. Eating is very difficult the first week or so after surgery. The best way to get nutrients is through liquids.

  2. Use a humidifier and always have a wet washcloth on hand. Breathing through your nose is often nearly impossible after jaw surgery. You have to breathe through your mouth and your lips and they will dry out along with your throat. The humidifier helps to add moisture to the air but the wet washcloth is the best remedy. Place the moistened washcloth over your mouth as you breathe and your throat and mouth will become less irritated from the dry air coming in.

  3. Drink from sippy cups. Sippy cups don’t spill when turned upside down and they are easy to use.

  4. Put all foods in the blender. Obviously, eating solid food when your mouth is bound shut is impossible. This is when having a blender comes in handy. The most unimaginable food items can be blended up and turned into smoothies. After three weeks of juice and soup, a pizza smoothie sounds like heaven. In other words, if you really want your favourite food, toss it in the blender with some kind of liquid (milk works well) and try your luck.

  5. Talk. It is difficult to talk with a bound jaw but not impossible. Sometimes writing things down is easier but the best way to build up the strength in your jaw is to put your muscles to work.

  6. Prepare a couch or a bed with lots of pillows so that you can sleep at an angle. Sleeping, in general, with a broken jaw is difficult. The postnasal drip from your sinuses will require you to sleep in an upright position, at a 45 to 90 degree angle. Otherwise, your breathing will become seriously obstructed, not to mention that your jaw may become irritated.

  7. Take pictures of your recovery so you can remind yourself that you are healing. Improvement is difficult to witness on a day-to-day basis but, weekly, it is a much more obvious process. Photographs document this and remind you that you are, in fact, improving even though you still feel horribly.

  8. Mentally prepare to lose a lot of weight. No one can stay on a six-week diet of liquids without losing weight. Losing weight so quickly can either be a blessing or a burden but it is drastic so be prepared. If you’re female, your menstrual periods are apt to stop temporarily.

  9. Be patient and remember that you will heal. Full recovery often takes up to six months. You will slowly notice the differences in your face and smile.

  10. Warning

    The effects of all the medicines and steroids that are pumped into your body during surgery include, but are not limited, to hair loss; massive breakouts; yeast infections; anxiety and depression. Mental preparation is a big must for this surgery. It isn’t plastic surgery in the sense that you will see the results after a week. Healing takes an incredibly long period of time and there are many speed bumps along the way. Though, unpleasant, this process can be made tolerable. Do not drink through a straw following jaw surgery

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Things You'll Need

  • Sippy cup
  • Wet washcloth
  • Blender
  • Patience
  • Pad for writing on and pencil
  • Pain meds
  • Pillows

About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.

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