Having surgery

Jaw (orthognathic) surgery

Jaw surgery is used to reposition the jaws, and correct any imbalance between the upper and lower jaws. This allows the teeth and jaws to meet together correctly.

You have the surgery under general anaesthetic. This means that you are asleep and do not feel anything.

During surgery, the jaw bones are moved and secured by tiny plates and screws. They stay in place under the gum.

We do not usually wire the jaws together. Instead, we use small elastic bands between the top and bottom brace to help the teeth close into the new bite position. Your orthodontist checks and changes these elastic bands. They might need to stay in place for several months after the surgery.

Preparing for jaw surgery

You can prepare for jaw surgery by going to your clinic appointments. These appointments are with the surgeon, orthodontist, clinical psychologist and speech therapists.  

It is important that you prepare for the surgery by looking after your health and seeing your dentist to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Recovery after jaw surgery

Leaving hospital

Most people stay in hospital for 1 or 2 nights after surgery before going home. This depends on how you feel after surgery.

You need someone with you at all times for the first few days at home because you might not feel well.

Returning to work and activities

The recovery time is different for each person.

  • You need to take 2 to 4 weeks off work.
  • Avoid any sports for the first 4 weeks after surgery. Do not play contact sport for 6 to 8 weeks.

Eating and drinking

Your mouth can open and close, even straight after surgery. However, the swelling and elastics bands stop you from opening your mouth fully.

You should eat and drink from the first day after surgery. You need to start by having soft, mushy food. You slowly change to a more normal diet over the first few weeks.

Pain after surgery

After surgery, you are more likely to feel uncomfortable rather than be in pain. While you are in hospital, we give you painkillers regularly. We also give you some more painkillers to take home if you need them.

Your lips, face and mouth feel numb and swollen. This, together with having a long operation, makes most people feel uncomfortable.

Swelling after surgery

Most people find that swelling is worse 3 to 4 days after surgery. The swelling and bruising then get better over the next 2 weeks.

Low mood

Often, and understandably, people who have this type of surgery can feel low in mood for a few days afterwards. There is information about coping with a low mood on the NHS website.

Resource number: 3615/VER2
Last reviewed: August 2020
Next review due: August 2023

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Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about having jaw surgery, please contact the Evelina London Cleft Service.

Phone: 020 7188 1787 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Email: [email protected]

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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