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Before I get into what you should expect post jaw surgery, you need to know one thing. You will get through this even though it sucks big time as soon as you wake up in your recovery room. You got this thing and don’t you forget it! 🙂
The first week your jaw is banded shut, so you won’t have much mobility when it comes to talking or opening your mouth (you probably won’t want to open it anyway). Also, since you literally won’t be able to open your mouth, there’s a risk of death by vomit. That, my friend, is why you’ll be receiving a new shiny pair of scissors in case of an emergency.
When I think back to it, the time you’re probably most likely to throw up is right after surgery. That’s when you’ll still be getting over the effects from the anesthesia which tends to cause nausea.
First eight to twelve days, you’ll be on the liquid diet. Fair warning, you may go slightly insane. Especially when others around you are enjoying some nice juicy hotdogs. To tell you the truth, I’m not even a big hotdog person, but I had wanted it so freaking bad. So sad.
Once your jaw is no longer banded shut, you can switch to the soft foods diet and celebrate by having some applesauce (preferably the kid ones that you can squeeze). Don’t expect to immediately be able to eat something like chili or even overcooked pasta because you won’t have much strength when it comes to opening your mouth.
Drooling will happen. There’s no beating around it, so you might as well accept that now. I had a lot of moments when I wouldn’t even notice I was drooling because I couldn’t exactly feel it since my chin and lips were both numb.
Get some of your favorite movies ready or a show to binge because you won’t be getting much sleep for a few reasons:
First, you have to sleep with your head elevated making it nearly impossible to get a nap in. Actually, this was one of the things that annoyed me the most. I tried lying down a few times only to end up more uncomfortable than I had been sitting up. It was a hinderance I tell you.
Second, if you finally do fall asleep, you’ll most likely wake up an hour later drenched in your own drool. Basically, you revert back to the infant stage of life: drooling, crying, not being able to communicate everything, needing constant help doing simple things like walking up the stairs (at least in the beginning). Ugh, not fun.
Third, you can’t get comfy and you’re constantly asking your mom or dad (anyone) for your meds. Ah, the blessed meds. I took cherry flavored liquid acetaminophen and that bubble gum medicine (my favorite). In short, I looked forward to the bubble gum, despised the cherry. My taste buds had their own special kind of hell when it was time to chug that liquid down. Even though I complain about it, I still have to grudgingly accept that it did a good job for any discomfort.
Fourth, something about having your jaw bones moved around along with additional swelling makes you become an insomniac. Even when I was flat-out exhausted to the point where my eyelids became cinder blocks, I still tried forcing myself to stay awake. My reasoning behind that was for a few reasons.
The drool: I hated waking up with a river of drool and a soaked cloth which always seemed to happen when I was asleep.
My nose: It was basically a motel room for dried blood; breathing my mouth was hard enough, but adding in a clogged nose . . . well, you can’t blame me for thinking I’d die from asphyxiation in my sleep.
My circadian rhythm: Even when I did manage to fall asleep, it lasted for around an hour at most during the first week. I loathed being in that limbo so I thought to myself “just stay awake” and that was that.
As I have touched on before, breathing is optional during the first eight or so days. When I say this was one of the worst parts for me, I’m not joking. After the surgery, there was a lot of blood that dried and clumped up around my nostrils. Adding to the misery, I couldn’t open my mouth either, making it even worse. I ended up picking the blood off and out of my nose which helped a lot. I have to say, the feeling of dry blood peeling off your nose is slightly strange. It’s both satisfying and horrifying to see how much blood escaped through your nose.
Depending on what you do pre-surgery, you may end up with one hell of a swollen face. I know I did. However, I remember people telling me that I might end up with some black and blues and maybe even a black eye, but none of that happened, so it varies from person to person. Your lips especially will be pretty puffy and numb. In fact, you might just look like a Placidochromis Phenochilus Mdoka fish.
Constipation happens, so be prepared for that and make sure to try to include prune juice in your diet. I didn’t have any prune juice and ended up having some problems, but it gets better.
Numbness is a major factor of jaw surgery. It’s been almost 6 months and half of my chin and bottom lip are still numb. There’s no getting around it. For most people, feeling does come back around the one year mark, so there’s that to look forward to.
If you would like to read about my hospital stay + my thoughts going into it, read on…
I never thought I’d need surgery, yet alone double jaw surgery.
When two out of three orthodontists told me I would need it during the consultations, I didn’t think much of it. In fact, the odd orthodontist out said all I needed was invisalign . . . I wish.
Now, the surgery didn’t happen right away. I got my braces on in October 2016 and had the surgery in July 2018 (the timeframe differs for everyone).
Before I even decided on surgery, my orthodontist gave me the option to do either upper, lower or double jaw surgery. She showed me 3D images of how my face would look with each one, but said the double would have the best results. She did say that I had the choice to not go through with it at all, but then I would still have my underbite and my lower jaw would still be jutting out.
How did I choose? Well, strangely enough, I jumped on the surgery bandwagon. Once I decided on that, I thought about how I’d experience discomfort no matter what, so why not go for the double jaw. Pretty solid reasoning if I may say so myself. Honestly, I don’t know why I was so confident at the time considering how low my pain tolerance is. Of course, there were times when I had second thoughts, but I just had to think of the end result. Reading and watching about other people’s experiences helped too.
One downside of surgery is the recovery period. You have to schedule a time block and for double jaw surgery, a minimum of two weeks is needed. I ended up setting the date for July 21st which gave me just enough time (around 5-6 weeks) before the semester started. I’d say that was a nice timeframe although 7 weeks would have been so much better.
The day before the surgery felt kind of surreal and I stayed up way too late reading. That was one of my not so great ideas since I had to get up at 5:30 AM. Lesson from that, get a good nights rest the day before surgery if you don’t want to be moody patient (not that I was a moody patient, the nerves kill the mood).
Day of Jaw Surgery
It was around 6:30-7:00 when I got to the hospital. Maybe half an hour later they took me to a “room” that was really just curtains (the pre-operating room I guess).
At this point, I had no clue what I got myself into and to say I was having second thoughts would have been putting it lightly. I was ready to hightail it out of there. In fact, I remember saying something along the lines of “Why am I willingly allowing someone to break my face?” to my mom in that room as we waited for the staff to come in.
After a few minutes there were a few people who came in and gave me the play by play. I kind of just nodded my head and went along with whatever they said. I also asked (probably for the twentieth time) if I would be in pain after surgery. The nurse (I think) said I wouldn’t be in a tremendous amount of pain after and that I’d be numb more than anything. Did that help my nerves? Not really.
Now, the reason behind the numb face after surgery is because they’re playing with the nerves when they move your jaw around. So hey, at least you won’t feel like your face has been hit by a 4×4. You might still feel like crap though (I know I did).
They asked me some questions after that and had me put on the hospital gown/scrubs. Ugh, those scrubs. I hated those scrubs. I thought I would at least get to keep my underwear on, so I did at first. Then I asked a nurse and she said they had to come off. I was sad when she told me that. It feels weird going commando, but you make do.
When the anesthesiologist came in . . . my stomach was a mess. I knew what that meant and I was not happy. She asked if I ever had it before and I said no. Then I told her I have a low pain tolerance and I’m not a big fan of needles. In hindsight, I don’t know why I felt the need to mention that since the IV would be going in one way or another. The anesthesiologist ended up letting me choose between having the IV put in before or after going into the operating room. Since I’m great at making decisions, I asked her what I should do to which she advised me to wait.
I did wait. Not sure if that made the nerves worse or not; well, it probably did. Anyway, the IV’s were terrible. I hate needles with a passion, so these were no exception. One was placed in arm and the other was my wrist/hand area. While the anesthesiologist did this, someone offered their hand to become my squeeze stress/pain ball and boy was I holding his hand with an iron grip. Honestly, his hand was probably in more pain than my veins. Then again, that anesthesia flowing through your veins, such a strange feeling. It’s like something alien slithering through you that both stings and chills.
Maybe seconds after that, all I remember is one of the nurses telling me I should be feeling relaxed. I did. In fact, it was almost this weird fuzzy feeling. I was pretty zonked out. Then the nurse said I would probably feel sleepy. A few seconds after, I was out. Everything after that is all a haze which is great. If I woke up during the surgery or was awake and couldn’t move, yikes. That was actually one of my fears going into this.
The operating room itself was an icebox and those scrubs are not meant to keep in the heat. It does make sense that it’d be cold though. Can’t have that pesky bacteria growing near the operating table or sabotage the equipment. Sanitation is everything, but I’d be happy to never be in one of those sterile rooms again.
My Hospital Stay
Waking up was a foggy jumbled mess. I don’t remember much except that I was in my room with my family. My sister could barely look at me without tearing up . . . my face actually brought her to tears. Who would have known. But it was honestly because of how messed up I looked. Don’t expect to look pretty right after.
I was out of it that first night. The nurses had me get up to go to the bathroom a few times and then the unthinkable happened: I passed out on the toilet. If I was forced to go back to that moment, I would do everything in my power for that not to happen.
Next thing that happens, I’m back on the bed and they say I’m going to have to use a bedpan or a catheter. Easy choice when it came down to it. But unfortunately for me, nothing came out when I tried the bedpan. It was like there was a mental lock on my bladder. That lead to the catheter and it was the stuff of nightmares. If you ever stay overnight after surgery, just get that pee out in the toilet.
After the catheter, things calmed down, but I never really fell asleep. I could barely breathe, even when they gave me the oxygen mask (which was so cold, oxygen is not room temp). Your throat also feels scratchy because of the tube that was down your throat and your nose is not in the best shape. The perfect recipe for breathing troubles.
The second day still sucked. I had a tube in my mouth taking out any extra blood, my nose was not functional and I was using an app to speak for me.
I’m not gonna lie, the first few days are absolutely brutal. I didn’t get any sleep the first night and my mom probably wasn’t too thrilled with me me after I continually woke her up.
Also, whenever they administered the stuff through the IVs, it burned like hell. I’m not sure if it was because the needles weren’t in right or whatever, but I could’ve lived without that.
They had me take a walk around the halls to show that I was strong enough or something like that. Then they took me down to have an x-ray done which was terrible. Holding your head still for a minute (or so) as this machine moved around was rough so once it was over, hallelujah.
I ended up staying another night which was kinda nice. The longer my stay, the longer I had before I had to put actual clothes on and get in a car. I was not looking forward to the drive at all. Nothing happened, but I felt pretty lightheaded and weak which made sense. There was no food in me.
Being home was both nice and depressing. I was stuck in the house with nothing to do except watch tv or have conversations with myself. The first 7-10 days will make you feel pretty secluded and lonely because you can’t talk to anyone. Yes you can use an app, but it got old.
So if you’re in a depressed state and you’re wondering why you ever thought jaw surgery was a good idea, think about how short this time frame is compared to your entire life. If that doesn’t help, then do something that makes you happy or just accept your emotions and wallow in the misery.
I tried getting out of the house on day 5 or something which was such a bad idea. I thought I’d be fine going to my dad’s for a few hours.
Well, I was wrong.
Turns out car rides can make you feel both light-headed and sick, so by the time I got to my dad’s, I wished I was back in bed. Lesson from this, don’t overdo it. Take it slow and stay in. Your nose will thank you since breathing is incredibly difficult when your nose is constantly clogged and your mouth no longer opens on command.
It was around day 9 or 11 when I went back to see the surgeon. Everything looked fine, but then one of the nurses started taking this bandage/splint off my chin area and it was the worst. I don’t know what was used to attach it, but ugh. It was really stuck.
After that, she started taking off most of the bands in my mouth and, for some reason, my left ear/jaw area popped. It was so painful. I honestly thought the nail holding my jaw together came loose or something like that. For probably 15 minutes, I sat there holding my ear, too scared to let go in fear that it would pop all over again. However, the doctor said it’s normal for that to happen since there’s no longer as much pressure holding everything together.
90 Day Mark
Half of my bottom lip and chin were both still numb which was normal. It can take up to a year for full feeling to come back. Sadly that meant when I put chapstick on, I would have the weirdest sensation because there is no sensation. And it can make it tough when you’re eating. Always check.
I now also have a slight deviated septum which can happen during this surgery since they’re moving your jaw around. You could always get that fixed after if you have trouble breathing and, for the most part, it should be covered by insurance.
I’m not sure what I plan on doing, but for now I don’t notice it much. Still, the surgeon said it’s not a very intense surgery and the recovery period is much simpler than after jaw surgery. For more fun surgery tidbits, just click here.
The Community: Fellow Jaw Surgery Survivors
It’s nice just to know that you’re not the only one going through this, so definitely take a look at some of these stories from others who have survived. It helped me a lot. Especially when I was in a particularly bad mood and wanted to complain, but couldn’t because my mouth wasn’t working. Then I’d find some posts where people just ranted or talked about how sucky it was which usually made me feel a bit better.
The one blog I followed religiously was Graham’s who wrote a post almost every day during his recovery. It was awesome to read that each day because you feel it and you understand. I binged all the posts the first time though since I wanted to know when the puffiness would go down among other things. Also, Graham’s humor makes you feel much better, so definitely take a look at his recovery experience.
In the beginning, I watchedLeanne Woodfull’s vlogs and read all her posts. Reading her story was inspiring and made me much more confident with going through with it all. The videos were especially helpful because you actually saw how the swelling went down and how long it took for her to be able to talk. Plus, videos are sometimes nicer than a post because you’re actually seeing the results and get a better idea of what it’ll be like.
Lauryn Evarts is the creator of The Skinny Confidential and wrote about her double jaw surgery experience. I read her posts a few times. They were very relatable, especially one where she talked about getting so desperate that she actually blenderized a cheeseburger.
Update: 10 Months Post Jaw Surgery
So I actually just went to the surgeon’s office a few days ago since I got my braces off a few months ago (I probably should have gone sooner) and everything was good.
A problem I have had lately is a tight sensation in my jaw/chin area whenever I smile. I asked if that was normal and she said that it was and there was nothing to worry about. Apparently, the reason for feelings of tightness is due to scar tissue that is still healing. Once that fully heals, that feeling should disappear which I can not wait for. Whenever I smile, my chin area feels like botox was injected into it (at least, what I think it would feel like if botox was injected into my chin).
Along with that, there is also still numbness on the right side of my chin and bottom lip. That is normal as well and should go away although there’s always the chance that feeling may not come back. However, whenever I touch that area, tingles run along it, so that could be the nerves reawakening (I think). Still, it doesn’t impact me in any way, so I’m fine with how it is right now.
The only part of that visit I didn’t feel too hot about was when the surgeon told me I had a slight depression on one side of my nose along with a deviated septum. I already knew from my last visit about the deviated septum which is actually a result of the surgery, so that didn’t surprise me. Of course, now there’s a chance that I’ll have to get surgery to fix that, so it doesn’t create problems down the road. The day I no longer have to get anymore surgeries will be my victory day. I don’t enjoy going under the knife or having an IV placed in my arm. Not fun.