A few weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy post about my experience with orthognathic surgery, which you can read here. In this post, I have decided to write about my top 10 tips for getting through the recovery stage. First and foremost, if you reached the recovery stage, it means the worst is over and while you may be in pain at the minute each day really does get a little easier!
1.Do your research
I cannot stress this point enough. While there isn’t a lot of first-hand anecdotal content online regarding UK and Irish jaw surgery experiences, the stuff that you can find is really helpful. Taking a day or two to get yourself together, make a list for purchasing your supplies and even reaching out to people who have been through it will make things all the better. Especially for your carers as they may find it hard to understand your voice when your jaw is locked together!
2. Get your supplies
Following on from my point above, you will have a very long list of things you will want to buy or borrow before you go in for the operation. A few of the essentials include extra pillows, a set of baby toothbrushes, medical toothpaste and mouthwash, a few sets of comfy pyjamas (Primark’s finest!), books, magazines, Vaseline, a Netflix subscription and the list goes on. Making sure you have sufficient towels, ice packs and hot cloths is imperative. Towels are perfect for the drooling and eating. Mixing up ice packs and hot cloths will also help to bring down the swelling (and subsequently, the pain). It’s well known that it’s individual preference for heat or ice, so just see what works best for you. Or if you’re like me, keep switching it up.
3. Have the right medicine
Supplies are one thing but medication is essential. Obviously, your doctor and dentist’s advice paramount, but any recommendations help! Your doctor will tell you to get liquid paracetamol and ibuprofen because you won’t be able to fit the tablets in your mouth. They will be your saviour. I also had problems with earaches and the best thing for this for me was antihistamines! They really brought down the aches and helped me to sleep, but beware they make you really drowsy with the condition you’re already in.
Vicks is also a fail-safe recommended by mummies and grannies across Ireland! Drop some in boiling water, put a towel over your head and inhale. This will help clear your blocked nose and sinuses.
4. Get to Tesco
Choosing between what liquids you think you can eat is a LOT harder than it seems! Having as many foods and liquids in your house as you can will help with those crucial decisions. Bear in mind you will be on a liquid diet so a blender is essential. Foods that helped me were milkshakes, soups, complan (essentially a fattening powder), protein powders, M&S mashed potatoes (…drool), yoghurts, blended stew, ice-cream and anything you can possibly think you could drink! When you get to week 3 and can start eating soft foods, Skips saved my life- they melt on your tongue and are the closest thing to crisps you’ll get for a while.
I cannot describe the feeling of showers after you get jaw surgery. For the first week or so, it was the only thing that made me feel better and 3 or more showers a day was the norm. Your face will swell up beyond belief in the weeks following the operation and even the most confident person would find it difficult to be in public. Showers will bring this swelling down (just make sure you don’t put your face under the water) and as well as that, they clear you head!
6. Make a list of things to do
Most people will get a good chunk of time off work or university for the surgery and while this may sound relaxing, it can be very boring! Make a list of TV shows (The OA being my current favourite obsession), books (Dolly Alderton: Everything I know about love!- you won’t put it down), podcasts, magazines, YouTube videos and even tasks you could do around the house. Arrange for your friends and family to come visit and make sure you’re never bored.
7. Take the dog on a walk
Or your cat, or your dad, or anyone really! Short walks will help bring down the swelling and it’s really easy to get stuck in a depressive rut during recovery. One thing though- never go by yourself! You won’t realise how weak you are and I only managed about 5 minutes every day from week 2-3.
8. Get ready for the aftermath
Make sure you have baby toothbrushes and good dental mouthwashes. The last thing you want is a dental infection so make sure to keep it clean. When your swelling comes down and you start to see your new face, it will be strange, but if you keep your teeth nice and healthy during the recovery it will pay off when it comes to getting the braces off!
9. Make a food bucket list
This will be the fun part! Write down all your favourite foods and make an itinerary for the week before your operation. You will never crave food like you do on a liquid diet so force all your friends to join you for a Nando’s.
10. Breathe and relax
It will be sore. It will be mind-numbingly boring. It will feel like a lifetime. But when it’s all over you will be so happy you done it! Relax and enjoy your time off with some well-deserved pampering and hopefully someone looking after you! It’ll be over in no time 🙂
Lauren Wilson is a third-year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently undertaking a year’s placement at Belfast City Council. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurennxwilsonn/