My Summer of Fun…aka Jaw Surgery!

November 18, 2015

Before & after orthognathic (jaw) surgery photos
Danielle an hour before surgery (left) and about 9 days later.

Ah don’t you love the summer holidays? Sun, sea, needles, hospitals, anaesthetic…wait what?

Right, so on 12th July 2013 I had jaw (orthognatic) surgery as my bottom jaw was further forward than my top; creating an underbite which I have been unhappy with since before I can remember. I was excited, but extremely apprehensive, for the surgery because it is known to be a pretty big one which casues quite a lot of pain and discomfort. Instead of writing reams and reams, I’ve thought of some questions that I would have liked to have asked somebody who had been through it before my surgery and answered them for you guys, so you can all have a read, as it seems to be an operation that lots of people choose to have when they get older.

How old do you have to be to have the surgery?

I was 17 when I had it, but I think this is the youngest that the hospital team will consider it as they need to wait for your face to completely stop growing – there’d be no point in operating if your face was going to change anyway! Many people have the surgery well into adulthood, so it really doesn’t matter if you don’t fancy it at 17, there’s always the option to have it later.

Do I need it?

Not necessarily! When you get past 16, you’ll find that most operations are up to you completely as it is you that signs the consent form and you that should get to make the ultimate decision. Some people chose not to, and some just don’t need it! My bottom teeth were much further forward than my top teeth which made me very self-conscious, so I went for it, but it’s not essential.

Right…so what do they do?!

*Don’t read if at all squeamish!* – firstly, the surgeon an incision (cut) in a kind of horseshoe shape around your top gums next to your teeth. If you have both jaws moved (they’ll advise you which jaw they’ll move!) then this will happen on the top and bottom. Then they carefully pull the top jaw forwards so it is in a more comfortable position and screw it in place with some small metal plates. A few stitches later…you’re done! I’m no medic, I’m sure there’s much more to it, but that’s all we really need to know 😉

Metal plates…what?!?!?!

As odd as it sounds, you don’t feel it – I promise! If anything, your faces feels a little bit heavier than usual, but you get used to that within a couple of hours. You honestly don’t even feel the metal because they’re too far up. If you’re like me and don’t have braces, they’ll put some temporary metal screws in your jaws that you can feel (if anyone would like pictures, please email me!) but they are taken out pretty painlessly a few weeks after. The plates, on the other hand, stay there forever – but don’t worry, you won’t set off airport alarms, they’re titanium, so aren’t detected!

Can you eat after the surgery?

Of course! Everyone HAS to eat – it’s not comfortable, and you need to find things you feel comfortable eating, but it is possible. You’ll probably find you lose a bit of weight because naturally you won’t be eating as much as you usually do. For the first two weeks I was on a total liquid diet – so, soup, milkshake, melted ice-cream, rice pudding, blended lasagna (yes, blended lasagna). It’s not the best thing to put up with, but you get used to it pretty quickly. Within six weeks I could eat almost anything, so it’s not permanent!

And the big one…does it hurt?

Not going to lie, it’s not nice. But, I wouldn’t say it was actually overly painful because the nurses and doctors keep you up to date with painkillers and give you some to take home. It’s not comfortable and you need to be very careful about leaning over (this can create pressure in the front of your face which can be painful) and transitioning between sitting and lying down takes a bit of practice because it can give you a bit of a head-rush, but all in all, it’s not too bad. The worst bit for me was during the night when I woke up because the pain meds had worn off, that was pretty painful, but within ten minutes of taking the meds I was just too tired to stay awake!

So! Hope that’s given everyone a better idea of what the surgery is like, as I said, if anyone wants pictures or has any more personal or general questions, please do ask, I’m very happy to try and help 🙂

The photos above are of an hour before surgery and about 9 days after (still swollen, but see if you can see a difference in my jawline!).


2 responses to “My Summer of Fun…aka Jaw Surgery!”

  1. Hi Danielle!

    My name is Chloe, I’m 23 and if I’m completely honest with you I’ve been wanting this particular surgery since I was around 16. Naturally me being me panicked when I was old enough to have this done and dropped out and it’s been like that to this day, I’m still wanting it done but terrified of how much it hurts afterwards. I had a rhinoplasty done in June last year and the pain afterwards was awful. I was wondering how long the swelling lasted before you started to look and feel yourself again? Do you think the surgery was worth it and if you can see a noticeable difference?

    I’m the same as you here and I am very self conscious of having an underbite and I’m forever finding faults with myself but I feel this will help me a lot if I know a big difference comes of it.

    Hope you’re well and thank you in advance for sharing your story x

    • Hi Chloe, Kenny from CLAPA here! I’m not sure if/when Danielle will see your message, so thought I’d send you a reply from my perspective in case it is helpful. I had the same surgery done 5 years ago and had many of the same apprehensions about it as you did. I won’t lie to you, the first few weeks after the surgery are pretty rough, but it does get better! After about 3 weeks, most of the swelling has gone down and you start to feel much more normal again, after 6 weeks you’ll be eating and drinking a bit more normally again too which really helps. Although those first few weeks weren’t a lot of fun (make sure you’ve got some good Netflix series lined up to watch!), in the long run I would say it was definitely worth it, and I can notice a big difference, not only in how I look, but also in my ability to bite into things and eat things more normally.

      At CLAPA, last year we also did a Cleft Talk video and podcast panel discussion on the topic of jaw surgery – you may find that answers a lot of the questions that you have too – I’d recommend giving it a watch or a listen here: