You can start talking right away after surgery; however, you won’t be talking normally, because your jaw will be either wired or tightly banded shut. Your lips will be moving, but you face won’t be.
The reason the jaw is wired or banded after surgery is to make sure nothing interferes with the healing process; the bone is able to fuze perfectly together in its new position. It’s kind of like a cast, but for your face.
Talking with a wired jaw can be challenging, to be sure. However, there are a few things you can do to make it easier for you to be understood, which will minimize both your and others’ frustration.
First of all, you can start practicing right now: just clench your teeth together and try to talk. You won’t sound as clear as usual, but you will be understood. It is a good idea to practice enunciating more clearly with your lips to compensate for the fact that your mouth itself isn’t moving. While your jaw is wired shut, you may be surprised at how many people will still be able to understand what you’re saying. There may be some misunderstandings, but others will sympathize and try to work with you.
Swelling contributes to difficulties talking when your jaw is wired shut. It’s difficult to enunciate when your face is swollen after surgery. If you are able to get the swelling down quickly, it will be easier for you to talk. To reduce swelling, make sure you ice your face in the first 48 hours after surgery. You may also want to go for a manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage in the weeks after coming home from the hospital. This specialized form of gentle massage brings swelling down quickly (it is commonly used on pregnant women with swollen legs/ankles) and will not interfere with the jaw healing process.
Another problem with talking while your mouth is wired or banded shut is that your jaw will become tired and sore very easily, due to the healing process. You will want to limit how much you are talking at first, so you may want to invest in a small, portable dry-erase board and markers. This way, you can write your order for a “non-fat, soy, half-sweet, mochafrapparappachino with extra whip and chocolate shavings” on the board without worrying that you’ll get the wrong drink.
The ideal board is magnetic, with magnetic markers with eraser/brushes in their caps; you won’t ever need to dig for markers or a board eraser – just grab the board and go. The board and markers make it easy to communicate when your jaw is wired shut, especially when your jaw is tired or you don’t feel comfortable talking through your wires.
Once your jaw is unwired/unbanded, talking will become much easier. However, your jaw will still tire easily, so it is best to limit the amount of talking you do in the first while, in order to give your jaw and muscles the opportunity to rest and heal.