The recovery period after jaw surgery depends on the kind of surgery you have. Some people have lower jaw surgery only, some have just upper jaw surgery, and some people have both jaws operated on at the same time.
After any of these surgeries, your jaw will be wired or firmly banded shut for a period of time, which can vary from two weeks to two months. Lower jaw surgery requires the jaw to be immobilized for less time, commonly around two weeks, while upper or double jaw surgery requires six to eight weeks of banding or wiring to allow for the bone to heal and be stable enough for a soft diet.
During the time the jaw is wired or banded shut, you will need to be on a liquid, high-protein diet. After the jaw is unwired or unbanded, you are not able to start eating regular foods right away, as the jaw is too tender and weak to be able to chew anything. For about one month to six weeks after unwiring, you will be on a soft diet, which includes foods that do not require chewing, like soups, instant mashed potatoes, puddings, rice, etc.
As your jaw heals, you will be able to add softer foods that require some chewing, like pasta, cooked vegetables, and fish. If you are chewing something and it hurts your jaw, it means that it is too soon to be eating that particular food. It may be a few months before you are able to eat everything you used to, but it will happen; just be patient and listen to your body so you don’t damage your jaw while it’s healing. And keep in mind that everyone is different – some people heal faster than others, so you may take less or more time than others before you are able to eat your favourite foods again.
In lower jaw surgery, there is the possibility of nerve damage, as a major nerve runs through the mandible and is affected during the procedure. The damage to this nerve results in numbness or tingling in the lower lip and chin after surgery. On the plus side, this slight nerve damage helps to reduce the pain that you feel after surgery, which means you may need to take less painkillers than you would with other surgeries.
However, the numbness or “pins and needles” feeling may take weeks or months to go away entirely, depending on how your body heals. For a minority of people, the damage may be long-term or even permanent. The possibility of permanent numbness increases with age, so if you need the surgery, it is best to have it sooner rather than later to avoid the possibility of this complication.
Both upper and lower jaw surgery are major bone surgeries, and the recovery period takes months, not weeks or days. It is important to be patient and know exactly what to expect, or your recovery may be very frustrating and upsetting for you.