Jaw Surgery
February 9, 2004 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Any MeFites have experience with jaw surgery? (More inside, as you might expect.)

I've been in braces a little over 5 months with the expecation of having orthognathic surgery about halfway through the process (i.e., somewhere around the 9-month mark or so). My orthodontist hasn't yet referred me to a maxillo-facial surgeon, but is expecting to do so soon. From what I understand, I'll probably have a LeFort osteotomy for the upper jaw and a saggital split for the lower. Anyone else had related procedures who would care to share their experiences? What should I expect from the initial surgical consult (and any questions I should be prepared with)? What was your recovery time like after the surgery? Any thoughts on the whole liquid diet/soft food thing? (Everything I've read on this count basically says "one of the unexpected benefits to jaw surgery is that you'll lose 10-15 lbs. during recovery, and gee, who wouldn't want that?" Well, I wouldn't, for one -- my weight problem is a perpetual struggle to gain weight, so I really don't have 15 lbs. to spare.) I'm also curious about the psychological side of having jaw surgery -- how did having such a change in appearance affect you?
posted by scody to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had jaw surgery about 5 years ago...not sure about the exact procedure name, but they essentially cut into my upper jaw, put in filler bank bone (to correct a bite issue) and then secured it with 4 permanent, small titanium plates. I fortunately didn't need my jaws wired shut, but I did have about a lot of very tight rubber bands on the braces for a while - definitely find out if your procedure will require your jaws wired shut.
Recovery time - its like you broke a bone, so it definitely takes a few months to totally heal, but you might be actually laid up for anywhere from 4-8 weeks. I was in high school at the time, so I had the luxury of using my summer vacation. The worst part of the healing process is how you look for the first few weeks. My surgeons didn't make any exterior cuts, they went in through my mouth; however, with all of that abuse, I was really swollen up for a while (frankly, I looked like an orangutan).
Soft food diet - everyone told me I'd lose 10lbs, but I didn't. I think the first few days you might not have much of an appetite, but after that its not a big deal. If you keep knocking back milkshakes and sitting on your rear (remember, no physical activity allowed for a while), the weight won't go anywhere :-)
As for any physical change, it was very subtle if anything at all. I personally didn't notice anything, although my mom thought my nose was angled a smidge "perkier" (her words). The worst psychological part was looking like shit during recovery, I really didn't leave the house for 2 weeks until the swelling went down.
All in all, it wasn't a horrible experience, the long term consequence of not having it done were much worse for me. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email (in the profile).
posted by dicaxpuella at 2:57 PM on February 9, 2004

I had TMJ joint surgery 4 years ago, so my experience is a little different. Find a surgeon you're comfortable with and who is willing to do follow-up care for as long as you need it. My problem was that I was seeing a surgeon 2+ hours from my hometown and 4+ hours from where I was going to school so when I had a problem I was pretty much on my own.

Invest in a good blender and plenty of Carnation Instant Breakfast (or something similar). I found it was pretty gross to try and eat "normal" food pureed so I stuck with stuff that was supposed to be liquid. That said, within a week I was able to eat solid food (small bites, gingerly) but that is probably different from my surgery to yours.

I was recovered enough to go on a week-long bus-trip across the country with no problems 4 weeks after surgery. The best advice I have for you is to stay on top of the pain and be prepared for a few days of misery. There's nothing pleasant about the surgery itself and the first few days after.
posted by Coffeemate at 4:32 PM on February 9, 2004

On a side note, the LeFort in question was my great grandfather. Alas I know nothing about jaw surgery. Sorry.
posted by nthdegx at 5:19 PM on February 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

I had surgery done on my jaw at the tail end of senior year of high school. If you've noticed, many Asians have an underbite and the so-called "Jay Leno chin". I was one of them. The hospital where they did the surgery was the public hospital, "Killer King", which had several preventable deaths in the past few years, so I was understandably a bit antsy about the process.

Basically, the face swells up insanely afterwards, and the liquid diet if a problem. I ended up drinking Ensure for five weeks (blech). Other than the pain, you gradually work back in to solid foods and hard foods like apples. I was thin already (130 lb., 5' 10"), so I didn't lose any more weight with the surgery than without. Psychologically, I didn't really notice it originally, and I don't notice it now. Indeed, I still have two front teeth that never grew in that are still missing. I don't wear dentures because they're annoying and I don't have time for dentists to drill dental implants. Usually when I smile I only smile with my top teeth anyway, so it's not that big of a deal.
posted by calwatch at 9:41 PM on February 9, 2004

I had surgery to correct an underbite when I was 17 (I'm now 33). I don't remember exactly what they did, but "LaFort osteotomy" sure sounds familiar. My jaw was wired shut for a month. Most people take two months (at least at that time) but I was apparently a fast healer. What I can tell you: I tried Carnation instant Breakfast, and I couldn't stand the stuff. I tried blending up all sorts of soups, but I found that they don't tend to be very good, they get kind of strange tastes to them, IMO. Cream of chicken, mushroom, etc., look and taste about the same when blended. I ate mostly that, and fruit smoothies. Here is a Straight Dope thread on what to eat when your jaw is wired.

I didn't lose any weight. I felt very out of it and my face swelled a lot. However, I think that might have to do with my latex allergy (back in the dark days of 1988, if you told them latex made your lips swell up, they'd tell you that you were either crazy, or reacting to the powder on the gloves.) When the wires come off, you won't be able to open your mouth very far. At first, I was still pretty much on a liquid diet, because I could only open my mouth just far enough to get a spoon in. It takes a while before you can open your mouth very far again.

Also-- if you don't have a Water-Pik or similar water jet tooth cleaning device, make sure you have one before your surgery. Water-piking your teeth, and rinsing with Listerine, will help keep your breath smelling nice. I've been told some people with their jaws wired shut could peel the paint off the wall before long. I dunno if that's just from not being able to to brush the back of your teeth and tongue, or what. I didn't have that problem, and my oral surgeon praised my oral hygiene. I used the Water-pik faithfully, with mint listerine in the water.

I did notice a big difference in the way people treated me. It made me kind of angry, because I was the same damn person I was a month before, but suddenly I was being treated much better because I didn't have a jutting chin. I've never really shaken the conclusion that most people are shallow jerks. Still, I would have done it anyway.
posted by Shoeburyness at 11:34 PM on February 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

I had some extensive surgery when I was about 15 - don't remember what the procedure was called, but I have a piece of hip bone in my upper jaw and they moved my lower jaw forward a smidge. As far as pain goes, the area they took the graft from was the worst. I had difficulty walking for almost two months, and the whole area was numb for years (years!) after. I didn't really have any pain in the jaw, but I was quite swollen. I was very tired very easily for a good month following the surgery. My jaw was wired, and the most annoying thing was the inability to yawn. I didn't like all the liquid food, so I ended up surviving mostly on whole milk. I did lose weight, but I needed to, so that was good. When my jaw was un-wired about six weeks after the surgery, it took another month to be able to open it fully. The first day without, I could barely open my mouth a quarter inch. So much for the yawning!
posted by ferociouskitty at 3:40 AM on February 10, 2004

« Older UK rail fare question.   |   Problem with Apache (Win2K) on a local network Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.