Weight Loss & Jaw Surgery

Each year thousands of Americans undergo jaw surgery, officially known as orthognathic surgery. These operations can be elective or necessitated by injury. Recovery can last for months, and because the patient will likely have difficulty moving her jaw for weeks, she will have limited food choices and will experience weight loss. With a little planning, however, the patient can continue to maintain a healthy body weight.

Types of Jaw Surgery

Jaw surgeries may be performed on trauma patients to fix damaged jaws or on patients who choose surgery to fix a misaligned jaw or facial deformity. These corrective procedures usually involve moving the top jaw down or moving the bottom jaw forward or backward to fix the patient's bite. These surgeries are done because the patient struggles with headaches, chewing problems, speech problems or appearance issues. Jaw surgery may also be performed to correct sleep apnea.


It's vital to keep the jaws aligned after surgery, so patients usually wake up with fixation devices or braces inside their mouths. In some cases, especially fractures, the patient's jaw is wired shut. Patients may find it difficult to swallow and talk for a few days. Chewing will be more difficult due to pain, swelling and immobilization. That means a patient will be on a liquid diet for at least several days.

The Liquid Diet And Its Consequences

Consuming only liquids will be challenging. Patients will need to drink six to eight glasses of water each day, but they will also need to keep up calorie intake. This means the patient will drink protein shakes, smoothies and pureed foods for weeks. It also means the patient will lose as much as 15% of his body weight. Too much weight loss requires a phone call to the doctor about how to increase calories.

Increasing Your Calories

A liquid diet does not have to be limited to shakes. Soup and pureed foods are other options. Adding water may help liquefy more solid foods. You can even find entire cookbooks dedicated to liquid diets. After a few weeks, patients will be encouraged to eat a semi-solid diet of soft foods such as scrambled eggs and soft pasta. This may become the patient's regimen for two months.