Sleep Apnea Jaw Surgery – Recovery Time and Side Effects

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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. It can lead to loud snoring and feelings of exhaustion even after a full night’s sleep. Maxillomandibular advancement is a type of surgery that is designed to help patients living with severe sleep apnea. It moves the maxilla or upper jaws and mandible or lower jaws forward and enlarges the airway in the palate and tongue area.

This surgical procedure is conducted under general anesthesia and the majority of incisions are made inside of the mouth. Thin saws and chisels are used to reposition the upper and lower jaws. Maxillomandibular advancement also involves placing large braces on the teeth that will remain for about six weeks.

Although the jaws are not usually wired together, rubber bands may be used to help patients maintain a stable bite while they heal. As with all surgeries, this procedure comes with risks. Some of the most common risks of maxillomandibular advancement include bleeding, breathing challenges, infection, tooth injury, bite changes, tooth numbness, a weaker jawbone, and trouble swallowing. In addition, the procedure may be ineffective and warrant the need for an alternative treatment.

The recovery period for this procedure usually takes over six weeks. However, most patients are able to gradually return to work and other activities after three weeks. After the surgery, patients should stick to a soft diet, refrain from chewing for six weeks, and take prescription pain medication as necessary. Antibiotics can decrease swelling and prevent infection. If patients experience diarrhea or a rash, they should stop taking antibiotics and reach out to their doctor as soon as possible. They should also elevate their head during sleep at a 45 degree angle to decrease blood flow to the head and neck and reduce swelling and pain.

In addition, we recommend patients hold ice in their mouth to cool the surgical area down and assist with pain control. This technique is similar to applying ice to a sprained ankle and considered one of the safest ways to reduce pain and support the healing process.

It’s also a good idea for patients to walk at least three times a day beginning the day after surgery. By walking, they can reduce their risk of pneumonia or blood clots in the legs. It’s important to note that while walking is encouraged, running and other strenuous activities should be avoided. Strenuous activities can raise heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of swelling or bleeding.

Many patients may benefit from nasal saline or salt water for the nose. It can wash away dried blood and other loose debris and keep the nose clean during healing. It can also speed up healing by keeping a moist nose environment. Nasale saline is most effective when it is used in each nostril three times a day for three weeks.

In some cases, a temporary tracheostomy will be placed to prevent swelling related issues that may arise after the surgery.

Contact Costa Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

If you or someone you love is living with severe sleep apnea, a maxillomandibular advancement may be a viable treatment option. Contact our Great Falls office at 703-439-1214 or Ashburn office at 703-348-2818 to schedule an appointment and learn more.