Jaw (Orthognathic) Surgery: Recovering at Home
You just had orthognathic surgery. This is treatment that reshapes the jaws to improve their form and function. Your job now is to keep yourself comfortable and help your body heal quickly. Make sure to get plenty of calories and protein. Get up and move around, but avoid strenuous activity. Be sure to get lots of rest. Keep your mouth and teeth clean to help the cuts (incisions) heal.
Controlling swelling and pain
For the first few days, swelling will likely increase. It should then start to ease. To reduce swelling and pain:
Sit or lie down with your head and shoulders higher than your heart.
Apply an ice pack to your face for 10 minutes at a time, with breaks of at least 5 minutes in between. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put an ice pack directly on your skin.
Use pain medicines as directed.
Nutrition and fluids
You will need to get enough nutrition, which may be harder while you’re not able to chew. You also need fluids to help prevent dehydration and nausea. For calories, protein, and fluids, try total-nutrition drinks, protein powders, soups, milk shakes, and other blended foods. Don’t use a straw, since the suction can stress the incisions in your mouth. Instead, use a glass or a sippy cup designed for young children. Once you can chew again, eat soft foods that can be cut with a spoon or fork. As you heal, you’ll slowly return to your normal eating habits.
Keeping your mouth and teeth clean
To keep your teeth as clean as possible:
If you can’t open your jaws, brush the front surfaces of your teeth with a baby toothbrush.
If a fluoride toothpaste or mouth rinse is prescribed, use it as directed.
If your surgeon advises it, start using an oral irrigator about 10 days after surgery.
Aim to get back to brushing and flossing normally as soon as you can.
When to call your surgeon
If you have any of the following problems, call your surgeon:
Pain that can’t be controlled
Nausea or vomiting that can’t be controlled
Swelling that keeps getting worse after 3 to 4 days
Trouble with breathing or swallowing
A fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
Go to the emergency department or call 911 if your healthcare provider’s office is closed.
March 16, 2019
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Fonseca, R. DMD. 2008, ed. 2, pp. 403-12.
Kapner, Michael, DDS,Sather, Rita, RN