To move the face, messages are sent from the brain to the facial muscles through a nerve called the facial nerve. The messages sent by these nerves allow you to smile, frown, close your eyes, etc. Due to the importance of facial mimicry in human relationships and the anatomical, physiological and psychological effects of its alterations, recent studies evaluated the facial mobility of patients undergoing surgical treatments involving facial bones, since during surgery the facial nerve can get irritated and not transmit properly.
Evidence found in various studies indicates that orthognathic surgical treatment does not seem to modify facial mobility, on the contrary, they have shown an improvement in the breadth of smiling and frowning, and the 3D analysis of facial movements showed that one year after the surgery, the facial mobility was very similar to that which was had before the surgery.
On the other hand, before we reach normality, we will go through many phases during our recovery, and it can be a long road until we finally regain full mobility and feel like ourselves again.
Therefore, today we want to share 10 tips to accelerate the recovery of facial expressiveness after orthognathic surgery:
1) Since the surgery causes a contracture in the chewing muscles, movement may be difficult at first. If your cheek is numb after surgery, you may be at risk of biting the inside of your cheek or lip when you speak. To avoid this:
- Rinse your mouth regularly with water or a specific mouthwash if prescribed.
- Avoid hot food and drinks, as you will not have sensitivity to notice the temperature
If you accidentally bite yourself, rinse your mouth with chlorhexidine or apply to the area as a gel.
2) Use a spoon and glass for your meals from minute one, using feeding syringes will only slow down recovery times, and should be avoided unless directed by your doctor. Also remember to avoid straws, as the suction will promote bleeding and dislodge the clots that are forming inside your mouth, and which are necessary for faster healing.
It may interest you: Why we should not drink through a straw after our orthognathic surgery
3) Eating and talking as normally as possible is a good exercise for the facial muscles, as it favors their recovery. During the first week, simply trying to open and close your mouth without straining, speaking, and vocalizing can help improve muscle tone and movement.
4) By the second week, you should be able to place two fingers between your front teeth comfortably and you can begin to gently press your fingers between your back teeth on either side of your mouth to help gently stretch your jaw muscles. Doing these stretching exercises, as well as moving your jaw from side to side and back and forth, will help.
5) At the third week, put a wooden clothes peg in your mouth and open it gently, do 10 repetitions and try to open more every day. It is important to use wood and not plastic, as the latter can easily break and injure you.
6) Once the maximum central opening is achieved, add a second peg, placing one on each side of the mouth and start opening and closing exercises. As you progress through the opening, position the pegs more and more towards the back of your mouth and continue with the exercises.
7) Once you can eat semi-solid food, try chewing on both sides of your jaw (avoid chewing only on one side). Normalizing the functions of the mouth whenever possible will help recovery.
8) Be aware of how much you can open your mouth; using a milimetric ruler will help you monitor your progress. By week four, you should be able to place three fingers between your front teeth. It is also very important to move the muscles used for facial expressions.
9) Soft tissue takes longer to recover. There are some stretches that serve to prevent or reduce this effect: Stretch the lips as much as possible (either smiling or pronouncing the X) and read aloud gesturing (even exaggerating) each sound, opening and closing, summarizing, working a lot on facial mimicry And besides, the act of kissing is a very good exercise to tone the lip muscles. Kiss the stiffness goodbye! ;)
10) To help stimulate your awareness of facial movement when the nerve is still healing, a gentle massage may be helpful. Exercises will not make the nerve heal more quickly, but emphasizing your movements will help prevent "muscle wasting," which can contribute to facial weakness related to the nerves. With your finger, “sweep” the inside of the cheek, back to front and top to bottom, starting with the right side and repeat with the left side. Then move to the head using gentle circular motions with your fingertips across the front of the scalp (as if washing your hair). Work your way down the forehead, around the eyes, nose and mouth, up to the neck.
For all indicated exercises, remember that any exercise must be gentle. Use a mirror to work on symmetry and hold each movement for 1 to 3 seconds, then relax and repeat. Do the exercises intermittently throughout the day.
As we can see, recovery from surgery requires a lot of effort, and post-surgical progress is sometimes uncomfortable and slow. However, with some determination and attention to these instructions, you can maximize your healing process and feel fully recovered in less time.