What to Expect Following Your Jaw Surgery
- If you are experiencing any problems during your postoperative healing, please call the office during office hours to speak with one of our nurses.
- If you are experiencing an urgent problem after office hours, call the office and you will be connected, via our after-hours service, with our on-call doctor who will address your concerns.
During your surgery, blood loss will be carefully controlled by your surgical team. Transfusions are rarely necessary but if you have any concerns regarding this, for any reason, please notify your surgeon. Following your surgery, a small amount of bleeding after surgery is normal within first two days. If bleeding continues or is excessive:
- 5. Place a 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick pad of moistened gauze over the surgery/bleeding site as needed
- 6. Firmly bite down on the gauze for 30 minutes
- 7. Repeat the first two steps, as needed, with fresh gauze, using finger pressure to hold the gauze if you cannot firmly bite on it;
- 8. You may also use moistened Tea Bags.
Swelling is a normal result from any type of surgery and may take up to three days to reach its maximum, after which it should start to decrease. To minimize swelling:
- Elevate your head on pillows for the first few days to help minimize swelling
- For the first 3 days following your surgery, consistently apply a cold pack to your jaw for 15 minutes at a time (remove for 15 minutes before re-applying) to help decrease swelling.
- After day 3, you may apply heat to the sides of the face, massage the cheek area gently, and exercise the jaw by opening and closing the mouth, two to three times a day.
Infection in the surgical site(s) is rare following jaw surgery. When it occurs, it is generally treated with antibiotics. If an infection is more severe, surgical drainage may be required.
SENSATION IN THE LIPS, CHEEKS, CHIN, GUMS, & TONGUE
- Nerves are often affected by surgery. Following your surgery, you may notice that sensation in your lips, cheeks, chin, gums or tongue is different. Usually, the feeling is like that experienced when local anaesthetic (“freezing”) is wearing off, and the affected part feels partly numb, or has a tingling sensation.
- Very rarely, an area can be more sensitive than normal, or even painful. The change in sensation may be temporary and normal sensation should return gradually within a few months. Occasionally, the recovery of normal sensation is incomplete.
- Unless cuts through your jawbone were necessary, a rare complication of jaw surgery is damage to the teeth when repositioning the jaws. If the teeth are damaged beyond repair, one or more teeth may be lost and may need to be replaced.
RIGID INTERNAL FIXATION (RIF)
- Where possible, small metal plates and screws are used to hold bone in the desired position while it heals, making it unnecessary to wire the jaws together. The plates and/or screws normally do not need to be removed unless they loosen or become inflamed and infected. Should this happen, they can easily be removed by our CVOS oral surgeon in our office.
- In very rare situations, this method cannot adequately stabilize the bone. In these rare instances, the teeth may be wired together for 7 – 10 days only after surgery using elastic bands between the braces on the upper and lower teeth to hold the teeth lightly together in their new position.
- If your bite is not correct after your surgery, it can usually be corrected with the use of braces. Rarely, it may be necessary to repeat the surgery.
- It is common while you heal after your surgery for your jaw muscles to become very stiff. This is the result of the prolonged period of limited jaw movement. This may make opening your mouth and chewing more difficult. This stiffness should gradually disappear over a period of a few weeks
- Also related to stiffness in the muscles that move your jaw is the potential for the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) to be affected. The joints generally remodel during healing and normal function returns. Occasionally, physiotherapy may be necessary, or, on rare occasions, surgery to the joints themselves may be required.
- Immediately following your surgery, you may notice that your throat is sore from the tubes placed during surgery. Lozenges, frequent gargling with a mild salt and water rinse, and drinking plenty of fluids will help.
- Keeping your mouth as clean as possible while you heal is important. It may be difficult to brush your teeth but brushing as far as you can reach is recommended. It is also recommended that you supplement your brushing by rinsing with warm saltwater.
- Proper nutrition plays a role in your recovery.
- However, this can be difficult after your surgery as chewing may be difficult and your appetite may be decreased. Don’t worry if you experience weight loss during this period as this is normal.
- Upon arriving at home following your surgery, you may begin drinking clear fluids at room temperature (e.g. apple juice or broth). Increase your fluid intake for several days after surgery
- You can eat what you want but solid food must be chopped or pureed first due to the restrictions you will have in opening your mouth to bite and chew.
- No alcohol should be consumed for 24 hours following your surgery as this can promote more bleeding
- It is also recommended to take a good quality multivitamin to supplement your diet.
It is also normal to experience fatigue after your surgery, possibly for a few weeks.
TIME OFF FROM WORK & SCHOOL
- While the amount of time you may need to be absent from work or school depends on several factors, and is different for everyone, taking at least 10 days to 2 weeks off is generally needed.
- Return gradually to a normal level of activity but get as much rest as you can.
- The amount of pain you experience following your surgery will vary based on a number of factors. Normally taking medication to relieve pain is only required for the first few days after surgery. As your discomfort lessens, fewer and/or milder pain medication can be used.
- Tablets may be crushed if there is difficulty to swallow them whole. Stiffness and discomfort in the muscles may persist for several weeks.