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After Orthognathic (Reconstructive Jaw) Surgery

You play an important role in your healing process. Following your corrective jaw surgery, it’s important that you carefully follow the post-operative instructions given to you by your surgeon. Here are a few pointers you’ll receive:

The First 24 Hours After Surgery:

  • Medications. Take your medications as instructed.
  • Swelling. To help reduce swelling, keep your head elevated and apply an ice pack or unopened bag of frozen peas or frozen corn to the area.
  • Diet. To avoid dehydration, take in as much fluid as you can. It’s recommended that you consume 64 ounces of water per day (eight 8-ounce glasses of water). At first you will be placed on a clear liquid diet (water, light juice, broth, etc.).
  • Bleeding. It’s normal to notice minor bleeding or oozing of blood from the surgery wounds during the first 24 hours. It’s also normal to experience limited jaw mobility and some numbness of your lower lip, chin, cheeks, tongue and teeth (for lower jaw surgery) and your upper lip, cheeks, nose and teeth (for upper jaw surgery).
  • Oral hygiene. Twice a day rinse with Peridex mouth rinse (an antibacterial mouth rinse) and brush your teeth at the same time. Carefully use a baby tooth brush to keep your teeth clean, taking extra precautions around the incision sites.
  • Other precautions. For upper jaw surgery, do not blow your nose or sneeze through your nose for the first two to three weeks.

The First Week After Surgery:

  • Medications. Take 600 mg of ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) every six to eight hours to help reduce pain and swelling. If you don’t receive adequate pain relief from these medications alone, add the prescription pain relief at least one hour after taking ibuprofen. Avoid alcohol while taking these medications. Take any other prescribed medications as directed by your surgeon.
  • Swelling. Expect swelling to be worst in the first week (it generally peaks from the third to fifth day after surgery), and gradually lessen. To help reduce swelling during the first 48 hours after surgery, place crushed ice in a plastic bag, wrap the bag in a towel, and place it on your face. Use the ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, giving your skin adequate breaks from the cold. Do NOT apply heat to the area, which will worsen swelling.
  • Diet. During the first week after surgery stick to a full liquid diet (milk shakes, smoothies, non-acidic juices, jello and blenderized foods.) Avoid alcohol, carbonated drinks and very sugary fluids, which may promote dehydration.
  • Oral hygiene. You may remove the elastics for hygiene, but replace them as instructed by your surgeon. Follow this oral hygiene routine at least two to three times per day: Gently rinse your mouth with Peridex mouth rinse and use a baby-sized soft bristled toothbrush to clean your teeth, nearby gums and ancillary hardware, carefully avoiding the sutures and wounds. For comfort, you may use warm saltwater rinses, but avoid mouth rinses with alcohol (the majority of commercial over-the-counter brands) that may burn and irritate the healing wounds.
  • Smoking. Do not smoke, which may slow or prevent healing and may result in an infection.
  • Activity. It’s important to not over-exert yourself during the first week after surgery, but you may resume light housework and other non-strenuous daily activities. By slowly resuming your activities you will help speed your recovery.
  • Follow-up. Be sure to return to our office for a follow-up post-operative visit with your surgeon one week after your surgery. During this visit, your surgeon will evaluate your healing progress and answer any questions you might have. Be sure to follow your new set of post-operative instructions for the next five weeks. By the sixth week, you will be able to resume a regular diet as instructed by your surgeon.
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