Trauma to the jaw causes a great deal of swelling. If you’ve ever had your wisdom teeth out, you’ll know how swollen your face can get after this minor surgery. The swelling you will experience from jaw surgery is similar, but your face will likely remain swollen much longer.
Facial swelling after jaw surgery lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. How long the swelling lasts depends on how your body typically heals, what kind of jaw surgery you have, and the measures you take to reduce the swelling.
There will be less swelling if you only have one surgery (either upper or lower) rather than both surgeries (upper and lower at the same time.) As well, with upper jaw surgery, your sinuses will be affected, so it is possible that in addition to the external swelling of your face, you may experience sinus blockages or infections.
It’s important to manage the swelling as soon as possible after surgery, not only for appearance’s sake, but also because reducing swelling reduces pain and pressure, helps you feel more comfortable, and makes it easier for you to speak when your jaw is wired or banded shut. Bringing the swelling down quickly also allows you to see what your new face looks like. Watching the results of the surgery emerge will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel, which will make your recovery easier for you, emotionally.
There are a number of things you can do to help reduce swelling. The most important is to ice your face as much as possible during the first 48 hours after surgery. This is the time period when you are able to make the most difference in bringing down the swelling. The ice will also help with pain and discomfort post-surgery.
The best way to ice your face after surgery is to get a jaw wrap. These are sold in stores and on the Internet to help patients after jaw or dental surgery. The wrap is a piece of fabric fitted with pockets on either side, which hold hot/cold packs. You freeze the whole thing and then wrap it around your face, where it fastens at the top of your head.
You can also make a low-cost version of a jaw wrap yourself. Just place the cold packs on either side of your face and get a friend to wrap a length of fabric around your jaw and tie it on top of your head. Either way, you will have a hands-free way to ice your face, bring down the swelling, and reduce pain post-surgery.
Another method to help bring down swelling is to go for a manual lymph drainage massage (MLD massage). This is a gentle form of massage that is used to reduce swelling quickly (most commonly used on pregnant women with swollen legs/ankles.)
The therapist touches your face so lightly that you can barely feel it, so there is no chance this will damage your jaw or interfere with the healing process, even if you go shortly after surgery. You will notice a big difference after only one treatment. However, be sure to do your research and find a massage therapist who specializes in this method, as not every therapist is trained in MLD massage.