Ten months ago I had double jaw surgery. Otherwise known as orthognathic surgery with a Le Fort 3 Osteotomy on my upper jaw and a Bilateral Sagittal Split Osteotomy on my lower jaw. (Essentially my mouth was broken into five pieces and completely reconfigured.) Jaw surgery recovery was no joke but I survived and lived to tell the tale.
You guys, writing this post was a day I dreamed about often during the first few weeks after my jaw surgery. When I was swollen and in pain and bleeding constantly out of my mouth and nose. When it was hard to talk and it literally felt like I would never chew normally again. Thinking about this day got me through it and made me sure it would all be worth it. Ten months later I am fully recovered and have been out of braces for nearly two months. It is truly the best. Smiling makes me so happy.
Since I wrote my first post in the throes of jaw surgery recovery, I have received so many messages from people checking in on how I’m doing and asking questions about the process. I thought it would be helpful to do a Q&A on jaw surgery, the recovery process, and my thoughts looking back. If you’re new to my blog, make sure to read my initial jaw surgery post to get the full backstory on why I had to get the procedure and what the surgery itself was like. If you have more questions after reading this please feel free to ask! I am an open book with this stuff as reading about other people’s jaw surgery experiences online helped me so much.
Was jaw surgery worth it?
Unequivocally yes! For how terrible the recovery was I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have the smile I always dreamed about. From a health perspective, when I bite my teeth my mouth actually closes and my teeth are no longer wearing away unnaturally fast. From a vanity perspective, a beautiful smile makes every photo prettier. It gives me confidence. It makes me feel beautiful. Getting jaw surgery was one of the best things I have ever done.
This is going to sound cheesy but my favorite quote is: “She decided to start living a life she imagined.” This past year was one of a lot of growth and changes. Jaw surgery was one of those changes that really showed me that I can do hard things and create the life I always dreamed about for myself.
How long were you out of work?
For background: I’m a digital marketer. My job is a desk job that involves a lot of talking but that can also be managed via IM if necessary. After surgery I took two weeks off work and then worked from home my third week. I went back to the office at the start of my fourth week and was still on medicine and drinking out of a syringe at that time so I brought it all with me to the office. My energy levels were incredibly low and mentally I was functioning a lot slower than normal. My boss was amazing and didn’t pressure me to return to the office before I was ready, but I put pressure on myself to do so. Looking back, I should have taken another week off to just rest and heal.
If I had no other choice I could have returned to work after two weeks but it would have been pretty brutal. Anything earlier would have been an absolute no-go.
How long did you drool and bleed after surgery?
Apologies if this post is too graphic for anyone, but I wanted to be completely real. I did not know that you drool and bleed so much after jaw surgery (Your sinuses swell up to the size of golf-balls during surgery and then subsequently have to drain all that blood and mucus). The first three weeks I went through insane amounts of tissues for my mouth and nose as it was just constant drainage. Thankfully, this abated by the one month mark.
Did you have to wear a splint?
Yes, and it started to drive me insane after two weeks. It felt like so much pressure in my mouth. I got it taken out after three weeks, so right before I returned to work, and I remember it felt like there was so much more room in my mouth once it was gone. Getting it taken out was a little painful (as they’re tugging on where your incisions were) but nothing crazy after what I had been through. I was militant with keeping my splint clean. After it was removed the surgeon said in his decades of surgery he had never seen a splint so clean. I was proud.
How long were you swollen?
I feel like all my swelling was gone by three months. It’s so important to ice your face like a champ the first few days after surgery and then switch to heating pads to help your body heal. I put turmeric in everything to help with inflammation and gave myself lymphatic massages (with my Doctor’s approval!).
How long did you feel like crap after jaw surgery?
I don’t want to scare anyone, but to varying levels, for a while. The first two weeks were flat out miserable. The next few weeks, less so, but still incredibly uncomfortable. By two months I felt like myself again and by six months I felt good.
What products did you use the most during recovery?
I wrote a whole post about jaw surgery recovery essentials. Everything on this list was a lifesaver in one way or another.
How often do you see your doctor after surgery?
I saw my surgeon every week for the first month and then every two weeks until the third-month mark. Then I saw him at six months, nine months, and my next (and last) appointment will be at a year. I remember my first week check up appointment with him just crying in his office I felt so miserable and was so scared. Compare that to my nine-month appointment where I was beaming from ear to ear and the appointment lasted all of five minutes with him saying everything looked fantastic and I was in great shape.
Did your insurance cover jaw surgery?
Yes, thank God, although it was a process. Josh’s insurance didn’t cover jaw surgery so I had to take out my own at work. Even though they were both the same parent company (United) they offer different medical benefits. To get my surgery deemed medically necessary my insurance required a letter from my surgeon and a certified bite test from a specialist.
What does jaw surgery cost?
This completely varies for everyone. If I didn’t have insurance it would have been over $40,000. When I add up my insurance premiums for two years (while I was in braces) and my deductible, I spent about $6,000. This does not include the cost of braces.
When could you chew food again?
I was on a completely liquid diet for two weeks. From weeks two to four I could mush up soft foods like mashed potatoes and eggs, but still primarily drank from a syringe. At week five I was cleared to start softly chewing foods, although it was so, so hard at first. I remember putting a soft piece of bread in my mouth and not being able to do anything with it. Chewing felt so alien and hard.
Practice does make perfect though. By month four I was able to chew pretty normally, except for thin things like pieces of salad or hard crackers. By month six I was able chew everything normally again.
Did you regain feeling in your lower jaw?
Yes! Lower jaw surgery comes with a small risk of permanent lower jaw numbness. Thankfully that didn’t happen for me. I have this one spot on the left side of my lower jaw where if I think about it or press on it I feel slight pins and needles but it’s so minor. It also hasn’t been a year yet so there’s a chance that could go away as a full recovery takes a year. Even if it doesn’t, I am still incredibly happy.
How long did you have to wait until you got your braces off post-jaw surgery?
I got my braces off eight months after jaw surgery and it was one of the best days. Getting to see my teeth again was so crazy. They looked huge! And they felt so slimy! I couldn’t stop running my tongue over them. It felt surreal. Start to finish getting in braces, having jaw surgery, and getting my braces taken off took me two years to the month. While that’s definitely a chunk of time it passed by in the blink of an eye. And now I have the rest of my (hopefully very long!) life to enjoy this new smile.
Questions of the Day: Have you had jaw surgery? What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to recover from? Do you envision the finish line to get you through hard things?
Mitchell A Chaitin says
I am so happy to read this, because you took care of yourself! Sorry for all the pain you had to go through, but that after pictures, and your happy smile, show that the surgery was well worth it. Congrats!
Wow, now this sounds like an experience. I have never heard too much about double jaw surgery but with such a long recovery time, I am not sure I would ever want to do it
Dea Mariano says
Hi Erin, you have an incredibly beautiful smile! All the pain you’ve gone through have really paid off. Praying for your full recovery! ?
Alissa A Apel says
I bet it really hurt! My nephew has had 2 jaw surgeries. He is not the same as you. He has a lot of differences. He has too much of the 18th chromosome. He can communicate, but can’t talk. Boy did my sister have trouble when he was on the ventilator, and woke up grumpy with all the meds. They were hoping he’d be able to eat after the surgery, but he can’t. His neck is just too weak overall. One good thing, my sister has her masters in nursing. She’s the perfect mother for him!
You look AMAZING. You looked great even before. I’m glad overall it was a success! Posts like this are so important. You give insight to those that need it. It’s wonderful your boss was supportive. I’m glad your insurance kicked in. It’s too bad you had to get your own before they would work with you.
I had an invasive nose surgery 2 summers ago. The ENT said my nose will never be like everyone else’s. They have me on a lot of Aspirin to prevent polyps from happening again. That doesn’t help with the healing. I bled and had a lot of stuff come out of it. I couldn’t get stuff up and out of it before, so one great thing – not a lot of stomach problems like I had!
Oh my gosh, that looks and sounds so painful. I’m so glad you took care of yourself and you’re doing well now. That picture on the couch is heartbreaking.
Laura Dove says
Wow well done you on sharing this and helping others who are considering or going through it. It looks SO painful but worth it as you have the perfect smile!
What a long process, but it seems like it was so worth it for you. I am glad you are now happy with your bite and smile. You do look so happy in your after photos!
I’m happy that it all turned out well in the end. That recovery photo does not look fun. And I can relate to rushing back to work a little too soon. Hindsight is 20/20 but you were lucky your boss was supportive, for sure! Your smile is really beautiful!
I’ll never forget my sister’s jaw surgery. I’m so glad I was there with her and our mom to help at the hospital. It was an emotional time for all involved. The doctor didn’t really prepare us and the nurses in my opinion were a little slow responding to my sisters needs. For example, being suctioned when needed so she could breathe again (how scary!) I eventually just asked the nurse to teach me how to suction her and did it myself for the first 24 hours. Luckily I was able to prepare a bit by reading a blog like yours before hand. I really appreciate you sharing your experience with others. You will help a great deal! BTW, her name is Erin too!
I can say it’s all worth it, the pain and the difficulties after the surgery just watching your smiling photo and sensing how happy and contented you feel now by reading this post. You’re such a strong woman to have surpassed it. 🙂
Thank you so much for this!
I’m currently 8 days post-op from my lower jaw surgery and to read your story was very helpful and informative of my months to come. I’ve been struggling with the liquid diet so far, and am glad to hear that somebody with double jaw surgery was cleared for at least some solids after 2 weeks… Everything else I had read was saying 6 weeks straight of liquids.
Emman Damian says
This is the first time I heard about orthognathic surgery. It’s scary but I know you aced it! Happy that it turned out well. Thanks for the info!
Annemarie LeBlanc says
You have such a beautiful smile! The jaw surgery must have been painful, but I guess it was worth it in the end.
GiGi Eats says
A friend of mine had this same surgery and it totally changed her life for the better too!! I am SO SO SO happy that you are feeling so much better Erin but man oh man during recovery, I am sure there were a few tears 😉
I am also THRILLED that insurance covered most of it! PRAISEEEE THE LORD!
Edgar Michael says
Aaaayyyyy…..reading your journey reminds me of the time I had 3 teeth in the back extracted. Nothing has ever hurt me as much as that surgery!
Brianne Manz says
I am so glad you shared your jaw surgery experience with us. I can’t imagine how much pain you were in that whole time but I am happy that you took care of yourself! You were beautiful before but even more beautiful now!
Sandra D Laflamme says
Wow! That sounds like an intense process! I am happy that you are fully recovered!
Omg that looks super pain full. Thanks for the tips about double jaw surgery, if I ever get it I will totally use this post. Thanks!
Shannon Gurnee says
That sounds like a painful process, but definitely worth it. Congratulations on a good experience.
Jessica Hughes says
Wow i’m sure that was very painful for you. Thank you for being so open about your journey!
Oh wow, this sounds so intense. Recovery definitely sounds difficult. I’m glad that insurance paid for most of it and you’re starting to feel better. Your smile is beautiful and I’m glad you felt like it was worth it!
Tiffany La Forge-Grau says
Oh my gosh that sounds so painful! I hope it all went well for you though.
Joanna Clute says
Oh my word that is insane. Your face looks like it really hurts!
Eileen M Loya says
You are so strong and courageous to have gone through all that pain and discomfort. I am happy that you did not encounter any side effects or complications during and after surgery. However, it was worth it. You look great with that winning smile!
Autumn Murray says
I didn’t realize what a process a double jaw surgery would be. I am glad that you are recovering well.
Lauren Ash says
Wow what a process that must have been like for you. Thank you for being so open about this with us!
Lavern Moore says
So happy to hear you are recovering. Wellness is a great benefit.
Mavs Escala says
Thank you for giving a very detailed answers. All of my questions are answered already!
Did you have this done at the Piper Clinic?
No, I had this done at UNMC.
Kristen Mori says
Hi Erin!! Thank you for your incredible story and you look amazing !!!
My daughter age 17 just had double jaw surgery and is 3 weeks post op tomorrow. It had been a challenge to say the least. She is drooling a LOT still ….we are a bit concerned and wondering if this happened to you ??
Thank you for your blog!!!
Hey Kristen! I hope your daughter is doing well. I drooled a lot for probably the first month. Like, lots of drool! Hopefully it subsides for her soon!
Hi! Thank you for this post, it is the best one I have come across. I am in this journey as well and will be having surgery this Fall. I am scared and almost want to talk myself out of but I have also always wanted it and now I’m in my late 30’s so if not now when? It is also a double jaw surgery my lower jaw protrudes and by fixing that alone it will cause me to have an over bite. Thank you again for story.
Wow so great to hear you are doing so good after Lasik! Inspiring!!
I am so glad I’ve come across your jaw surgery posts!! I’ve been in my braces for 4 months now with my surgery taking place some time next year. Ever since I’ve had my braces on it’s just felt so much more real and it’s been making me so anxious! Especially since I can’t plan my wedding until after surgery as I don’t know when it will be and what my recovery will be like >__< reading your posts has helped calm me down as I know it will all be worth the wait. Thanks so much for your brutal honesty and grim details as I have a much better idea of what to expect when the time comes. So pleased your recovery went well and you’re happy with the results ?x
me too. i had double jaw surgery last year december. now i can eat like usual.
Just my lip still little numbness
KyLee Crawford says
This gives me so much hope! I’m 3 weeks post-op from TMJ replacement, Lefort 1 osteotomy, and left sagittal split osteotomy. I also have a new chin! However I’m at the point where it’s hard to see the light at the end of the liquid-diet tunnel. I know that it will get better, it’s just hard to imagine at this point. LOVE you’re results and love hearing how happy you are. Thank you for sharing!
I’m due to get double jaw surgery where you able get up bed and stuff that day go bathroom shower etc
I was booked in for tomorrow they Rung to cancel as no beds now I awaiting again I’ve double jaws get done gum incession.
Yes! Not shower but bathroom.
Erin :-) says
I so appreciate all of your jaw surgery blogs. I am preparing for my upper and lower jaw (and chin) surgery in 2 weeks. I’m obviously super nervous and feel very under prepared. Reading your blogs have helped me more than you know!!
Pam Moran says
So glad to hear you’re doing well…. I’m 2 months in with my jaw surgery. I had osteoarthritis really bad in one jaw and the other was starting to go. So i decided to have double jaw surgery. I’m doing really well except having tension headaches now. On my side that was really bad.everything has to reheal muscles ligaments and tendons. Mind you , this had been going on for 4 years. Pain was tremendous and spasms at times was really bad. Dentist had told me jaw surgery didn’t work , so everything kept deteriorating. 5 sets of dentures and 11 dentists later. I’m just wondering when when your jaws feel like yourself again , ya know the feel between your jaws and ears. The best thing I ever did 🤗