Jaw Surgery Recovery FAQ

My name is Jordan. I’ve had two double jaw surgeries with two different surgeons, one on January 8, 2014 and the second on April 9, 2015. I hope my answers are helpful to you, though remember to always take your surgeon’s advice over mine. Also see my blog and before and after pictures!

+ What should I buy for recovery?

Check out the Products page for a full list. I hope it helps you in your recovery.

+ Do you have before and after pictures and a blog?

Yep. Check them out on the Before and After Pictures page and the Blog page.

+ Is jaw surgery painful?

Jaw surgery does include some pain in recovery, though in the case of my two double jaw surgeries and other surgery blogs I’ve read, it’s minor. If you have jaw surgery you will likely be given prescriptions for pain medication(s), and any kind of pain above a 2 or 3 out of 10 is unlikely after the first week of recovery. During surgery you will likely be under anesthesia, so you will wake up after without feeling a thing. The first week will be very difficult, but you'll do great! See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery safe?

In the very large majority of cases, jaw surgery is safe. It is performed many times every day across the world with positive results. During my two surgeries in two different locations, in the operating room there was a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and two or more nurses/assistants. Their priority during surgery is you.

The vast majority of all kinds of surgeries on the human body require you to sign a form that you will not hold the physicians or hospital/facility responsible in the case of further injury or death during surgery. This is standard procedure. In my case I have dealt with dentists for teeth cleaning, orthodontists for braces and surgeons for my jaw.

Your best bet is to do your research on surgeons. Find recommendations. One thing that I did was find a special board of surgeons, look at the member list and then find one of them that’s in my local area. Also ask during your consultation about the surgeon’s rate of patients having to come back for a second surgery. If he/she says less than 1%, that’s excellent. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery scary?

It can be, but in your consultation and visits leading up to surgery, you should have a good, trusting feeling in your surgeon. Write down questions ahead of time and ask during your visit. Also as I said above, ask during your consultation about the surgeon’s rate of patients having to come back for a second surgery. If he/she says less than 1%, that’s excellent.

When you wake up from surgery, it will take a while for the anesthesia to wear off. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. While the first week of recovery can be extremely difficult, keep in mind that you will be armed with instructions from your surgeon, and hopefully a kit of some sort that will bring you comfort, so that you know you’re doing the right thing during your recovery. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery worth it?

In my experience, yes. I went through two double jaw surgeries, and with the second one being successful I am glad I went through this journey. To find out if it’s worth it for you, make a list of the reasons you’re thinking of having jaw surgery.

  • Are you having pain in your jaw or joints?
  • Are there chewing issues?
  • Do your teeth meet in an awkward way, possibly causing future problems?
  • Is there an underbite or overbite?

Take some time to determine whether or not you want to have surgery.

My problems were an underbite, chewing issues, speaking issues and joint popping, so I determined I wanted surgery to correct everything. See here for my before and after pictures.

+ Is jaw surgery dangerous?

Jaw surgery can be dangerous, but remember that it’s safe in the very large majority of cases. It is performed many times every day across the world with positive results. During my two surgeries in two different locations, in the operating room there was a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and two or more nurses/assistants. Their priority during surgery is you.

The vast majority of all kinds of surgeries on the human body require you to sign a form that you will not hold the physicians or hospital/facility responsible in the case of further injury or death during surgery. This is standard procedure. In my case I have dealt with dentists for teeth cleaning, orthodontists for braces and surgeons for my jaw.

Your best bet is to do your research on surgeons. Find recommendations. One thing that I did was find a special board of surgeons, look at the member list and then find one of them that’s in my local area. Also ask during your consultation about the surgeon’s rate of patients having to come back for a second surgery. If he/she says less than 1%, that’s excellent. Also ask how long he/she believes surgery will take. My first surgery took eight hours and I was extremely swollen, and it didn’t work out well since I had to get another surgery. My second surgery took three hours and I was barely swollen, and it worked out great. See here for my before and after pictures.

+ Is jaw surgery considered cosmetic?

Jaw surgery incisions are all made inside the mouth. In my two double jaw surgeries I did not have any incisions on my skin. Your appearance will likely change slightly for the better. I had an underbite before, and after my bite looks much better. If you’re curious about this question in terms of insurance coverage, move on to the next question.

+ Is jaw surgery covered by insurance?

It depends on the type of insurance. Here’s a tip though. Most insurance companies have a giant policy handbook on their websites in PDF form. You can see all of the guidelines for determining if you’ll be covered there.

Generally, it is unlikely that insurance will cover you for jaw surgery. In conversations with surgeons, I have learned that if your insurance company does cover you, you’re in the minority. So consider yourself lucky.

What are the alternatives? Well, you can ask your surgeon if there is an outpatient option. I had my second surgery in an outpatient facility for a total of around $14,000 and stayed in a nearby hotel that night without issues. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery necessary?

It depends on the patient. I went through two double jaw surgeries, and with the second one being successful I am glad I went through this journey. To find out if it’s necessary for you, make a list of the reasons you’re thinking of having jaw surgery. Are you having pain in your jaw or joints? Are there chewing issues? Do your teeth meet in an awkward way, possibly causing future problems? Is there an underbite or overbite? Take some time to determine whether or not you want to have surgery.

My problems were an underbite, chewing issues, speaking issues and joint popping, so I determined I wanted surgery to correct everything. See here for my before and after pictures.

+ Is jaw surgery outpatient?

I believe that most jaw surgeries are performed in hospitals, though yes you can find surgeons who will do it in an outpatient facility. I had my second surgery in an outpatient facility for a total of around $14,000 and stayed in a nearby hotel that night without issues. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery necessary for overbite?

I am not an orthodontist, but if you have an overbite it is unlikely that braces will be able to do much for you. Ask a surgeon the number of millimeters he/she believes your upper and/or lower jaws will need to be moved in surgery. There’s only so much an orthodontist can do since he/she usually only moves teeth, not jaws. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery serious?

Yes. Jaw surgery is major surgery, not minor. Recovery is difficult in many cases. You will be on a liquid diet for several weeks. There is a possibility your jaw will be wired shut. A splint will likely be fastened behind your upper jaw for several weeks to hold it in place. In my double jaw surgeries, both my upper and lower jaws were moved. The only way to do this is to make incisions inside the mouth and physically move the jaws, then secure them with tiny titanium plates and screws. The plates and screws will remain inside your mouth and fastened to bone for the rest of your life, so most people rarely notice them, and you can’t touch or feel them since they’re under your gums. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery necessary for braces?

Braces straighten teeth. Jaw surgery straightens your upper and lower jaws. If you’re getting braces, no you might not need jaw surgery. But if you have a bite issue that can’t be corrected by braces, yes you will want to get jaw surgery if you want to correct your bite. Again, braces straighten your teeth. Jaw surgery straightens your entire bite once your teeth are all pointing in the right direction. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery a good idea?

Think of it this way: Are several weeks of only drinking liquids and the general risk of surgery in any case worth fixing your own specific problem? In my experience, yes jaw surgery was a good idea. My problems were an underbite, chewing issues, speaking issues and joint popping, so I determined I wanted surgery to correct everything. See here for my before and after pictures.

+ Is jaw surgery life threatening?

Yes. It’s not fun to talk about, but jaw surgery is basically a surgeon making incisions inside your mouth, moving your jaw into the correct position, then securing them with tiny titanium plates and screws. The plates and screws will remain inside your mouth and fastened to bone for the rest of your life, so most people rarely notice them, and you can’t touch or feel them since they’re under your gums.

You will be under anesthesia during surgery, and there’s a risk with anesthesia no matter the kind of surgery, and there’s a risk with surgery no matter what part of your body is being operated on. But know this: If you feel comfortable with your surgeon during all of your pre-operation visits and you have asked all of your questions, that’s the best you can do. Like I said in another answer, ask your surgeon about his/her rate of patients having to come back for a second surgery. If it’s less than 1%, that’s really good. Also ask how long he/she believes surgery will take. My first surgery took eight hours and I was extremely swollen, and it didn’t work out well since I had to get another surgery. My second surgery took three hours and I was barely swollen, and it worked out great. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ What's chewing like after jaw surgery?

Chewing after jaw surgery all depends on whether you have lower, upper or double jaw surgery. It also depends on the way your surgeon performs your specific surgery. Patients will be on a liquid diet for several weeks.

In my first surgery I was not wired shut, and my surgeon encouraged me to begin chewing as soon as I could. After six weeks I still wasn't really chewing well. After my second surgery my jaw was wired shut for four weeks. Blended foods were not able to get past the closed jaw "barrier", so I had to stick with liquids like water, Gatorade, soup and Ensure. I was instructed to begin chewing soft foods after around eight weeks and solid food after 12 weeks. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ What can you eat after jaw surgery?

A liquid diet will be required for several weeks following jaw surgery. It's not fun knowing that other people are enjoying cheeseburgers, pizza, tacos and other wonderful foods while you're restricted to soup, Ensure, water, Gatorade and other liquids, but that's how it is. See here for my Products page that includes these items.

+ How long will I wear elastics in recovery?

It depends on your specific surgery, but you can expect to have to wear elastics (rubber bands) on the front of your teeth for several weeks. You may be instructed to remove them to eat, but you might also be instructed to leave them on. Ask your surgeon. The elastics aren't annoying or painful. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Can I exercise during recovery?

No, unless your surgeon says you can. You can walk and take a few flights of stairs, but you're not going to a gym until around 1-3 months following surgery. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ How long will I be recovering after jaw surgery?

Bones will be healed in three months. You won't feel "normal" until that point, but you will begin chewing a few weeks following surgery. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ What's is a jaw surgery splint?

The splint is a piece of plastic that's wired behind your upper jaw following surgery. My splints were removed after six weeks following both of my surgeries. You will sound like there's cotton in your mouth when you talk with the splint. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ How much swelling can I expect?

The amount of swelling likely depends on the number of hours you're in the operating room. If your surgeon is working on you for 2-3 hours, your swelling should be relatively minor. If you're in for 6-8 hours, expect to look really puffy. Take a look at my Before and After Pictures to see my swelling.

+ Will my voice change after jaw surgery?

I don't think so. If you had a lisp, surgery may remove it, but the way you sound likely won't change.

+ Will there be nausea during jaw surgery recovery?

Nausea is likely. During surgery your surgeon's assistants will attempt to suction the blood before you swallow it, but some of it will be swallowed. In the hours after I woke up from both of my surgeries, I vomited blood in two big bursts each time. It's over quickly, but it's not a lot of fun.

Also consider that very strong pain medication can cause nausea. I had issues following my second surgery when taking liquid Hycet, a medicine kind of like Vicodin. If you're experiencing nausea, your surgeon may recommend to stop taking the heavy pain medication, and instead stick with Ibuprofen. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ What happens if I need to sneeze, cough or yawn right after jaw surgery?

Sneezing, coughing and yawning is all normal after surgery. Yawning is strange if your jaw is wired shut, but it's not painful. Sneezing seems scary as you feel it coming on, but it's all normal. And coughing wasn't a big issue. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Can jaw surgery fix a lisp?

Ask your surgeon. If you straighten your teeth and have jaw surgery to line up your bite, you shouldn't have a lisp anymore, so yes, it can fix a lisp.

+ Does Medicare or Medicaid cover jaw surgery?

Of all the questions I'm asked, this is one that I am not sure about. Just know that I've learned in discussions with my two surgeons that it's becoming more and more rare for insurance companies to cover jaw surgery.

+ What kind of numbness can be expected after jaw surgery?

If you have lower jaw surgery your bottom lip and chin will be numb for several weeks, and while it will mostly go away after a few months, it may take up to a year for it to fully go away. There's a small chance that feeling may never return to the area. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ What questions should I ask my surgeon?

Ask everything you want, then ask these three:

  1. How long do you expect me to be in the operating room?
  2. How often do your patients need a second surgery?
  3. Will my jaw be wired shut?

Now take this as a suggestion. This advice is not the definitive way to find a surgeon that will deliver successful results, but it is what worked for me...

My first surgery took eight hours. I was extremely swollen and my recovery was very difficult. Also my jaw wasn't wired shut, so that may be one reason my jaw did not heal properly, so I needed a second surgery. My second surgery took three hours, I was wired shut, my recovery was fairly easy and the result was marvelous. Also my second surgeon said his rate of patients coming back for a second surgery is less than 1%.

+ Will I have chest bruising after jaw surgery?

It's possible. Chest bruising makes your chest look yellow/green. Think The Hulk. Chest bruising has to do with your swelling. It's connected to when you sleep with your head elevated for the first several days or weeks. It's not harmful and there's no need to be worried. It goes away after a few weeks. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery medical or dental?

Medical. I believe it's rare to find a dentist who also performs jaw surgery.

+ How is jaw surgery performed?

It’s not a whole lot of fun to talk about, but jaw surgery is basically a surgeon making incisions inside your mouth, moving your jaw into the correct position, then securing them with tiny titanium plates and screws. The good news is that you’re under anesthesia the whole time, so you won’t feel a thing. The plates and screws will remain inside your mouth and fastened to bone for the rest of your life, so most people rarely notice them, and you can’t touch or feel them since they’re under your gums.

The number of hours it takes for your surgeon to complete the surgery depends on experience and the steps he/she needs to take for your specific case.

You may be able to go home the same day, or you might have to stay one or more nights in recovery. There will be several weeks of a diet only consisting of liquids (Ensure, water, Gatorade, soup), and your jaw may be wired shut. If your surgeon recommends your jaw be wired shut, do it. This holds your jaw in place so that it doesn’t shift. I didn’t have my jaw wired shut for my first surgery, and that is one of the reasons I had to have surgery a second time. Trust your surgeon.

The liquid diet will likely last 6-8 weeks. Also there will likely be a splint fastened behind your upper jaw for around six weeks. You’ll be back to soft foods around the eight week mark and solid foods at 12 weeks. This isn’t an easy process, but think about the rest of your life. Weigh the pros and cons. Talk to friends and family. This is major surgery, but it doesn’t have to be scary. It can be one of the best decisions you ever make. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Is jaw surgery expensive? How much is jaw surgery?

Yes. I was lucky enough to have my insurance cover my first surgery, and the hospital bill was over $100,000. For my second surgery I paid $14,000 out of my own pocket over a number of months, having the surgery in an outpatient facility with a great surgeon. Part of the $14,000 was a fee for the facility, and the remainder was for the pre-operation visits, the surgery, the post-operation visits and x-rays. It’s not a bad price when you think about what you’re getting for the rest of your life. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ Should I get lingual braces, the kind that go behind the teeth?

My recommendation is a big "no". I had lingual braces for two years because I didn't want to be a 30-year-old walking around with braces on the front of my teeth. The fact that the braces were hidden behind my teeth wasn't worth it to me considering the discomfort I felt. Get normal braces on the front of your teeth. I had them put in for my second surgery. See here for my complete jaw surgery blog.

+ What should I bring to the hospital?

For both of my surgeries I brought only my fully-charged phone, a change of underwear for the day I left and several pairs of socks so my feet could feel comfortable during the hospital/surgery center stays. For my first surgery I stayed two nights in the hospital due to my condition, and for my second surgery I left the surgery center a few hours following surgery. Entrust someone else with your keys and wallet. If you think you'll stay at least one night, you can bring a laptop or other activities if you want, but in my experiences you will have no energy to interact with anything. You will be extremely weak and uncomfortable, though those people only having lower jaw surgery should have a considerably better time recovering.

I had trouble finding the strength to even reach for my phone to see who sent me a text message. I'd look over, see it there lit up and not even want to sit up. You might stay overnight. It all depends on your own condition. I have read before that someone stayed as many as five nights.

+ Why did you have two surgeries?

My first surgery resulted in a better outer appearance, but my bite still wasn't right. I had joint issues and my jaws would meet in a strange way on the left side. I didn't want to live with these issues the rest of my life, so I found a very experienced surgeon who did a great job for my second surgery.

+ When does the splint come out?

The splint that's wired to your upper jaw will be there for several weeks. For both surgery recoveries the splint was there for exactly six weeks before removal. For example I had my first surgery on Wednesday January 8th and had the splint removed on Wednesday February 19th. It all depends on your surgeon's decision.

+ Is sneezing and coughing painful?

I didn't sneeze until about two weeks after surgery, and it didn't hurt. This happened after both surgeries. No issues. Coughing didn't hurt either.

+ What can I do to ensure a successful surgery?

This is a tough question. My first surgery recovery was extreme. It was not pleasant. It was very difficult. My second surgery recovery was much, much easier. One reason why my second surgery recovery was much easier was because my surgeon lined up my jaws perfectly, ensuring a perfect result. But another reason why the second recovery was better was because the surgery only took three hours, as opposed to eight hours for the first surgery. This means my swelling was minor. Also before scheduling my second surgery, my second surgeon said his patients don't drool in recovery, he doesn't recommend the use of a catheter for urine, his surgery should only take 2.5-3 hours and that he only has to do second surgeries on less than 1% of his patients. He delivered on all of these. I guess what I'm saying is to ask your surgeon questions, and receive consultations from multiple surgeons.

+ How much sleep can I expect the first week?

I didn't sleep the night of my first surgery. On my second night in the hospital, I got about an hour. On my third night, my first at home, I got 2-4 hours of sleep in a recliner chair. I woke up several times that night and the following several nights. After two weeks, sleep should return to normal. I was able to sleep several hours the night of my second surgery. We stayed in a quiet hotel and I was very comfortable. If you have issues sleeping, don't be frustrated. Realize that you're doing this for a reason, and that you're tough and not going to complain about not being able to sleep!

+ What should I eat the first week at home?

Following my first surgery I tried a few things. I found that scrambling three eggs with lots of shredded cheddar cheese and then blending them in some water wasn't actually that bad. It might sound nasty, but it's not. Eggs have a ton of protein. When scrambling the eggs, make them soft.

I know this is kind of getting off subject, but here's how to make really soft and tasty scrambled eggs, as opposed to mixing them and letting them get hard and crispy in a pan:

  1. Use a pot, not a pan. You won't need the lid to the pot, so set it aside.
  2. Use a no stick spray on the bottom of the pot.
  3. Mix eggs and cheese into pot and stir.
  4. Turn the stove on to medium, constantly stirring. Do not stop stirring.
  5. When you see that the eggs are no longer liquid, immediately dump into a bowl or your blender. Don't let them get crusty in the hot pot.
  6. Add 1/2 cup to a cup of cold water. Blend at the highest level for 10-20 seconds. Dump it into a plastic cup and drink. Good luck!

I would also have an Ensure or Boost chocolate or vanilla flavored nutrition shake for breakfast. They both have a lot of sugar, but also have a lot of vitamins and protein. I didn't worry too much about sugar intake for the weeks I was recovering. You will possibly lose a lot of weight, so eat whatever you can, keeping nutrition in mind when possible. I also made at least one shake a day, each containing ice cream, milk, vanilla yogurt, bananas and tons of Hershey's chocolate syrup. See, sugar, I told you. I also recommend picking up some Campbell's soup. I got Tomato and Chicken Noodle. If you get a good blender, buy some real bacon bits (don't use imitation bacon bits) or fry some bacon and blend the cooked soup with the bacon. Maybe some cheddar too. I also blended in some broccoli all the time. Good to get some bacon flavoring, cheddar and broccoli benefits in soup during the first few weeks! Broccoli and cheese soup is good too. Experiment with foods you eat. You'll likely have some food left over that you won't eat. You can see lots of these products on the Products page.

Following my second surgery, I had liquid soups from Whole Foods and Trader Joes that come in brick shaped boxes. Broccoli, potato, tomato, squash, black bean and other soups are all available in completely liquid form. No blender needed. These soups were able to get through my wired shut jaws. I also had several Ensure drinks every day. Ensure Complete has the most protein and nutrients, so I had those or Ensure Plus for several weeks. Add onto those plenty of water and Gatorade, and that's all I had. Soup, Ensure, water and Gatorade.

+ What blender works well besides the really expensive Blendtec or Vitamix brands? And do I really need a blender?

Yes, you probably need a blender. I did several hours of research to find the best blender (as of January 2014) based on price and performance. I purchased the Breville Hemisphere Control BBL605XL Blender for $200. It grinded down bacon bits to microscopic shavings, chopped completely frozen banana slices into a shake and performed all of my tasks well. It's still expensive, but it's not nearly as expensive as Vitamix or Blendtec. You don't want to buy something that isn't able to do what you need, so don't go out and buy a $50 blender. Note that Bed Bath and Beyond does not accept their 20% off coupons for Breville products. They exclude several brands on those coupons. You can see this blender on the Products page.

This video convinced me to go with Breville:

+ Are people going to stare?

Don't worry about what other people think.

+ Can I drink alcohol?

I would assume not, but perhaps one beer here and there is fine. I didn't ask my surgeon, and I'm personally staying away from it during recovery. I'm updating this answer now at week six after my first surgery and I still haven't had any alcohol. I don't see any need to drink even one beer right now. I'm allowing my body to recover with nutrients.

+ When can I take off the bandages where my IV needles were?

After my first surgery I took my IV wound bandages off the night I got home. After my second surgery I don't remember having any bandages. You can see the bandages I used on the Products page.

+ When will my first post-op appointments take place?

Depends on your surgeon's plans. I had my first post-op appointment after my first surgery on Monday, five days after having surgery on a Wednesday. My second post-op appointment was 8 days after surgery on a Thursday and my third was on a Monday, 12 days after surgery. Several appointments after that I had my splint taken out at week six, 42 days after surgery.

+ What happens during these first post-op appointments?

My first surgeon cleaned up my mouth with a suction tube, tools, a toothbrush and mouthwash. He sprayed water in places where it was hard for me to reach, getting food out from on top of my splint. On my second post-op appointment after eight days, my first surgeon attached four rubber bands as the muscle memory of my lower jaw was pushing it slightly to the side. Rubber bands aren't fun, but the days seem to start going by faster in the second week.

My second surgeon had x-rays taken the day after my surgery. A week later he checked to make sure my jaws are healing properly. Then three weeks later he did some more checks to monitor recovery.

+ Will I lose weight?

Yes, I lost several pounds after both surgeries. After the first surgery I went under 200 for the first time in over a decade. 191 was my lowest weight in years. I'm very tall, so I got really skinny. I've read that jaw surgery patients have the chance of losing between 5 and 35 pounds during recovery, but I don't know about the accuracy of that statement. I plan on gaining back most of the weight later since I was already at a healthy weight. That won't be hard!

+ I know I'll feel weak the first few days, but when will I start feeling better?

The extreme weakness will likely last just the first week. You'll be weaker than normal after that point too, though you might not feel it unless you climb a bunch of stairs or take a fast walk, both things I recommend avoiding. You won't be to full strength for several weeks. However, you will feel dramatically better within a week, providing you're eating, drinking and not sitting in one place all day. Weakness on recovery days one and two versus six and seven are completely different.

+ When do things get back to normal in terms of toilet time?

Both numbers 1 and 2 will be back to normal within a few days. For number 2, drink lots of prune juice to help. Tomato juice (V8) is also good for this, and perhaps better tasting. You can see this product on the Products page.

+ Who were your surgeons?

I prefer to not give out their names since this website is not endorsed by them, and because there are plenty of wonderful and experienced surgeons out there. If you want a good starting point, search for the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and see if any of the surgeons listed in their newsletters are in your local area.

+ Why are there ads on this website?

I had to pay for my second surgery since my insurance wouldn't cover it. Also I pay an annual fee to the website platform, so I have some ads on this website to help me pay the bills, so that I can keep this information up to help future jaw surgery patients and their families.

+ What's this video below?

Just a hobby. Enjoy.