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Jaw Surgery - Take One

cleft lip and palate patient after a maxillofacial osteotomy (jaw surgery)

A maxillofacial osteotomy (the posh name for jaw surgery) is where the jaws are moved to a new position: where the top jaw sits in front of the bottom one.

In the procedure, the upper gum is cut to give surgeons access to the jaw. The jaw is then broken with a controlled break. Before jaw surgery, a plastic wafer (a small holder that the teeth are fitted into in the new position) will be made so that the surgeons can use it to keep the jaws in the right place. Once the jaws have been newly aligned using the wafer, small titanium plates are screwed into the skull. (Don't worry, the plates are tiny and look like the small construction pieces from a set of Meccano). The titanium supports the jaw whilst the bone heals (and no, they won’t set off airport scanners).

When I had my jaw surgery, only my top jaw was broken and reset (it was moved forward 7mm). I stayed in overnight and was ready to go home the next afternoon. I took it very easy for the first two weeks, which I didn’t really get a choice about considering I’d had six-hours-worth of anaesthetic in my system. I also had little energy due to the liquid diet that is required for the first two weeks post-op. This was not fun. I tried to think of more inventive solutions than just soup and yoghurt, but ultimately it was just a waiting game before I could get back to my usual food (albeit still a very soft diet).

After surgery, I was given different elastics to wear (I think my jaw was being pulled together at twelve different places altogether!). None of this was particularly ‘comfortable’, but I was given plenty of painkillers and lots of support from friends and family who spoiled me with hot chocolate and lazy film afternoons. I was back at uni about five weeks post-op, although I kept my commitments to a minimum. By the seven week post-op point, I was pretty much back to my usual activities and food, and by eight weeks, I had my post-op check-up where my team were very happy with how I’d recovered.


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