How long does it take to recover from orthognathic surgery? Skip to main content

How long does it take to recover from orthognathic surgery?



Who needs orthognathic surgery? People who can benefit from orthognathic surgery include those with an improper bite, or jaws that are positioned incorrectly. Jaw growth is a gradual process and in some instances, the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. The result can be a host of problems that may affect chewing function, speech, or long-term oral health and appearance. Injury to the jaw and birth defects can also affect jaw alignment. Orthodontics alone can correct bite problems when only the teeth are involved. Orthognathic surgery may be required for the jaws when repositioning is necessary.

“Hello. Dr. Loetscher here. So I’m going to talk a little bit about your recovery from orthognathic surgery, what we also call jaw surgery, or repositioning the jaw bones to line up the bite. We do a lot of it for sleep apnea as well. We do these procedures in our outpatient surgery facility here in our office. And recovery here for the first hour or two, then you go to your home. And one of our nurses will accompany you to your home for the first several hours to get things started for you. And that’s worked out very good.

And so, as far as the surgery goes, there is four things that are a big deal. “What am I going to go through?” So, number one is a lot of swelling. Number two, there is almost no pain. Number three, on a soft diet for six weeks. And number four, you need about a week, week and a half to recuperate.

So let’s talk about the swelling. So number one is, you get a lot of swelling in your face. It’s very significant, to the point that everybody that sees you for the first two weeks will know you’ve had some swelling. There is actually a benefit to that, because the swelling is actually part of  moving your bones around. And so the nerves that provide their feeling to the area will be a little bit swollen. So you get some numb lips on the top and on the bottom if we do both jaws. And that actually keeps it from hurting. And believe it or not, most people after a day or two use very little pain medication.

But the other great thing about this is, nerves that get numb, they do not move your face. So the smile now will look normal. They just provide a feeling. Then in a few weeks, in the upper lip you start getting your feeling back, a little longer the lower lip. So by the time the feeling comes back, most of your pain’s gone. So that’s a pretty awesome thing. It’s like, you can do all this resetting and there is nominal pain from it.

So the third thing about this is, you’re on a soft diet for six weeks. So, we move your bones around. We don’t break your jaw. It was done a long time ago, people say. It’s a very precise cutting. We reset the jaw bones. And we use these titanium screws, little bone plates, mini plates we put in there that secure the bones in the new position. So when you wake up, you can open and close your mouth. So that’s the first week. But a rule of thumb is you can chew soft foods, anything as soft as macaroni and cheese or softer, which covers things like pasta and meatloaf, cooked seafoods, tilapia. So it’s pretty much a non-chew diet, or it’s a soft chew diet, for six weeks. It seems like that’s not a big deal, but about week four people are crying for pizza and tacos and things. So that’s a little bit of a thing is a soft diet for six weeks.

And the fourth thing is, it takes about a week or two to get your energy back. So for students we’d say take a week off school. You really need a week and a day. So we do a lot of these during the winter break, spring break, summer break. And adults, you know, we do it all year round and adults that are in school.

And so, the way it works is, your first week, we do a lot of these on Tuesdays, so if we did it on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday you’d feel pretty good because you’re getting a steroid called Decadron that cuts down on the swelling, but it gets you on a runner’s high, a boost of energy. So Wednesday and Thursday you’d feel pretty good. Friday and Saturday, when you’re drugging it up, you get a low. You feel all depressed. So that weekend, like day five and six you’re a little bit down energy-wise. And then day seven and eight recover.

And so if you did it on Tuesday and you have to go back to work, I’d say go back to work the following Wednesday, eight days later, and maybe work part-time. Because it’s really a matter of getting your energy back. And so, everything from here down works great the first day. It’s just your rhythm with the up and down and energy and a really stiff swollen jaw, and getting used to some numb lips. But after a week, people that are used to the numbness and not feeling bad they can eat. So it’s a pretty quick recovery. But the first week, you know, it’s a week of a hassle of a stiff, swollen jaw.

The other thing about this surgery is you think, “Okay, resetting jaw bones. What about infections, the bones not healing, bones not fusing?” Well, the facial area has a great blood supply. So in the thousands of these I’ve done, I’ve never seen anybody get a severe infection. They don’t have problems with the bones not healing, the bones not fusing. So it’s a very smooth and uncomplicated procedure for the most part.”

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