Does jaw surgery hurt?

Jaw surgery itself doesn't hurt, as you will be under general anaesthesia during the surgery. Once you wake up from surgery, you will have intravenous painkillers (such as morphine), which will eliminate any immediate pain.

When you are ready to leave the hospital, you will be sent home with prescription liquid painkillers that can be taken orally. By using a syringe, you will be able to take these drugs even though your jaw is wired or tightly banded shut. It is best to take the painkillers as recommended during the first few weeks after surgery, as it can be quite painful when the painkillers wear off.

Some have compared the pain of jaw surgery to that of having your wisdom teeth removed. This may be the case for some people, though it may be more painful for others; everyone's experience is different.

Post-surgical pain can usually be controlled with prescription painkillers for the first few weeks and over-the-counter painkillers after that. If you experience intense pain that does not respond to prescription painkillers and/or lasts for longer than a few weeks, contact your surgeon, as this could be a sign of infection or other surgical complications.  

The amount of the pain you feel also depends on the type of jaw surgery you have. During lower jaw surgery, the main nerve that runs through the mandible is slightly damaged, so the chin and lower lip become temporarily numb. This numbness helps dampen the pain of lower jaw surgery. (During upper jaw surgery, there are no comparable nerves damaged; numbness is specific to lower jaw surgery patients.)

The mandibular nerve will begin to heal in the weeks after surgery, and the feeling will gradually return to the chin and lower lip. As the nerve heals, you will feel “pins and needles” in these areas, which can be  uncomfortable or even painful. Painkillers can help with the discomfort as the nerve heals. It's also a good idea to keep in mind that this is a “good pain”: there is a slight chance of permanent numbness with lower jaw surgery, so tingling and pain is something you want to feel, as it shows the nerve is healing as it should.

There are also complementary remedies and treatments that can help with pain post-surgery. By reducing swelling quickly, you can reduce pain, as swelling can make the pain worse.

Some options include the homeopathic remedies Arnica Montana (in either pellet, tincture or cream form), which reduces swelling and bruising; Hypericum Perforatum, which reduces nerve pain; Calendula, which helps heal wounds; and Thiosinaminum, which helps break down scar tissue.

The enzyme Bromelain, which is derived from pineapple, can also be used, as it decreases inflammation and promotes healing.

A naturopath or homeopath may be consulted to determine which remedies and dosages are right for you. Be sure to discuss any complementary remedies with your surgeon and/or doctor to ensure there are no conflicts with other medications you may be taking.

Acupuncture can also be used to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain, and to help nerves heal.