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Jun 27, 2013

The following has been written to help prepare TMJ patients for an upcoming surgery. This information has been developed by patients who have been through the procedures and have offered advice to help make the process easier.

Tips to consider when preparing for a TMJ surgery include the following.

The Most Important Tip!

  • Keep a positive mindset; seek support from family and friends!

Shopping Tips

  • Buy several pairs of pajamas and clothes that do not have to be put on over your head.
  • Test out different types of protein powder before surgery so you can find the type you like.
  • Get your prescriptions filled before surgery.
  • Plan and prepare non-chew meals in advance.
  • Purchase a food processor or blender.
  • Shop for food and plenty of liquids so you have these items on hand when you return from the hospital.
  • Have ice packs available for use at home or stock up on frozen peas, corn, or other vegetables for moldable ice packs.
  • Purchase a gel cold/hot pack.
  • Purchase a back wedge pillow to put in your bed to make sleeping and resting easier.
  • Purchase a pillow to support your neck or roll up and tape a towel.
  • Buy a child-sized toothbrush for when you cannot open your mouth very wide. Don’t forget the mouthwash.
  • If your mouth is wired shut, consider buying a Zip’N Squeeze® which makes eating much easier.
  • Purchase ChapStick® to help soothe your lips.
  • Purchase Toothettes™ (oral swabs) to keep your mouth clean if wired shut.

Ask the Doctor Tips

  • Ask about donating your own blood so that, if needed, you may receive it during or after surgery.
  • Ask your doctor if any of the medications you take should be stopped or others begun prior to surgery. If so, how long before surgery should they be stopped or started?
  • Ask your doctor for dental wax if you will be having arch bars or your jaw is wired shut.
  • Discuss with your doctor what will be done to manage any post-surgical pain you may have.
  • Discuss with your doctor how to maintain proper nutrition.
  • Ask about how to manage nausea post-surgically, should it occur.

Miscellaneous Planning Tips

  • Consider having someone take care of your children and pets for the first couple of days after surgery.
  • Learn the hospital policy for visiting hours, parking and phone/TV billing.
  • Evaluate your need for discharge planning, home therapy and rehabilitation after surgery.
  • Try to be at a healthy weight before surgery.
  • Set up your bed area at home prior to surgery so that you will not have to do it when you return from the hospital.
  • Have plenty of reading material. Tackle the stack of books and magazines you’ve been meaning to browse for the last few months.
  • Consider getting a subscription to a DVD rental service in case you don’t feel like reading.
  • Make travel arrangements if surgery is out of town. Some patients have told us a long car ride is much worse than a short plane ride.
  • Have a list of people and their contact information for your loved ones to notify after your surgery has been completed.

Post-Surgery Expectations

  • Post-surgery pain is the most severe the first few days. Once you make it past this point, the pain should begin to subside.
  • Sometimes, there is temporary or permanent damage to the nerve that allows the upper eyelid to open and close. You should tape your eye shut or wear an eye patch to avoid irritation and scarring of the cornea. If your eye is dry, artificial tears work well to keep it moist.
  • Many patients experience jaw muscle spasms after surgery. If you experience such spasms, contact your surgeon, and she/he may prescribe a muscle relaxant. Moist heat and massage can also be helpful.
  • Much of the swelling goes down after the first week, but it’s not uncommon if the some of the swelling lasts longer. Intermittent application of cold is generally recommended for the first 24 hours after surgery to minimize swelling, and intermittent moist heat should be used thereafter to help get rid of the swelling. Bruising can take up to six weeks to subside.
  • If you are wired shut, the tightness will decrease after the first week.
  • It is important for proper healing to maintain your nutrition and drink plenty of liquids. Initially, it may be easier to eat small amounts every few hours than to eat a large amount at regular mealtimes.
  • If you are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to finish the amount prescribed.
  • A Waterpik® can be very helpful in keeping your teeth clean and mouth fresh if you are wired shut.
  • If you are wired shut, take your wire cutters everywhere you go in case of an emergency.
  • Don’t rush to eat solid foods. Take it slow, and give your jaw and muscles plenty of time to heal. Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your diet.


In Treating TMJ

To view or order a free booklet about TMJ Disorders, visit the National Institutes of Health website.

National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Office of Research on Women's Health

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This website is for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This website is not a substitute for such advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always consult your doctor if you have questions about your health condition or before starting any treatment. The TMJA is unable to provide doctor referrals and does not endorse any particular health care professional or organization. Reliance on any information provided by the TMJA, TMJA employees, other personss appearing on the website at the invitation of the TMJA, or other visitors to the website is solely at your own risk.

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