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Jaw wiring is known in the medical community as maxillomandibular fixation. This procedure connects your lower and upper jaw bones together.
Your doctor may use wires or other materials like elastic bands or metal devices to keep the jaw together. While your jaw is wired shut, you’ll need to maintain a liquid diet. You’ll also need to practice good dental hygiene.
You may need to have your jaw wired shut for a number of reasons, including:
- you’ve been in a traumatic accident and have injured, fractured, or broken your jaw
- you have a jaw deformity
- you have temporomandibular joint dysfunction
- your jaw doesn’t align properly
- you have other jaw-related dental issues that cannot be corrected with orthodontics
Your doctor will likely wire your jaw shut following surgery to correct one of these conditions. The wires will help your jaw heal properly the way a cast or other protective device would stabilize a broken bone elsewhere.
About jaw wiring and weight loss
Jaw wiring is not a commonly used method for weight loss. There was a period in the 1970s and 1980s when doctors wired shut the jaws of people for up to a year to help them lose weight.
People did lose weight initially when their jaws were wired shut, comparable to those who received bariatric surgery, but many of them regained the weight after doctors removed the jaw wires.
Undergoing a procedure that results in jaw wiring can have many benefits. This procedure can:
- correct painful jaw problems
- fix misalignment that prevents proper functioning of your jaw and or teeth
- help you close your lips comfortably
- adjust your facial appearance by addressing cross bites, underbites, or overbites
- improve speech impairment
- alleviate conditions related to the jaw, such as teeth grinding or sleep problems
Your doctor will wire your jaw together to stabilize the mouth and prevent the jaw joint from moving following surgery. Your doctor will attach bars to your upper and lower gums in the front and back of your mouth. These will hold the wires or elastics in place to keep your jaw shut.
Jaw surgeries are generally done as in-patient surgery with some form of anesthesia. You’ll likely be hospitalized overnight when undergoing a surgery that results in jaw wiring.
Your doctor may wire your jaw immediately following surgery or wait a day or two to add the wires or elastics to your mouth.
How long is my jaw wired shut for?
Your jaw may be wired shut for six weeks following jaw surgery, so your jaw bones can heal.
There can be some risks of jaw wiring. These include:
- Choking while your jaw is wired. This can occur for many reasons, including if you vomit or cannot breathe. You must carry wire cutters with you at all times to clip the wires in your mouth if choking occurs.
- Bleeding from surgical incisions.
- Tingling or numbness in your mouth from a nerve injured during jaw surgery. You may experience this for a short time or up to a few months.
- Damaged teeth from the materials used to wire the jaw shut.
- Infection following surgery, which can be treated with antibiotics and drainage.
Recovery time depends on the extent of your injury or surgery, as well as your overall health, and other variables.
You’ll experience some discomfort following jaw surgery and subsequent jaw wiring. You should not experience pain during the procedure because of anesthetics.
Your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever to use following your surgery. You may experience swelling following the surgery as well.
Your doctor will likely remove the jaw wiring after six weeks if your jaw has healed. Removal is generally done as an outpatient procedure.
You need to keep your mouth clean while your jaw is wired. This includes:
- brushing your teeth twice a day
- using a mouth rinse or salt water (1 teaspoon of salt to a cup of water) to clean your mouth a few times a day, such as after eating
Other practices you may want to consider while your jaw is wired include:
- using lip balm or other moisturizers, like petroleum jelly, to keep your lips moist
- applying dental wax to cover any wires that may be sticking out in your mouth, to reduce cuts and sores
- inspecting your mouth daily to monitor any changes
You should contact your doctor if you:
- experience pain
- cannot feel your tongue or lips
- are bleeding
- if the wires become loose
Get immediate care if you have trouble breathing.
Meeting your nutritional needs is one of the biggest challenges of jaw wiring. Since you’re unable to chew foods during this time, you’ll need to make sure you’re taking in enough calories, as well as vitamins and minerals. Proper nutrition will help your bones heal so you can recover faster.
During this period, you’ll probably drink most of your calories and nutrients. This will involve more meal planning and preparation than you may be used to.
We’ll cover a few quick ideas followed by other suggestions to help keep variety and flavor in your diet while your jaw is wired shut.
You’ll likely blend all of your foods or consume prepared foods like liquid nutritional supplements, milkshakes, or drinkable yogurts during this time.
You need to make sure that the liquid meals you consume are thin enough to pass through your jaw wiring, with large chunks strained out.
Cook foods before blending them so they puree easily. You may want to add milk, broths, or other liquids when blending foods to make them thin enough.
Jaw wired shut diet ideas | Diet
You’ll need variety in what you consume while your jaw is wired closed. Here are some ideas to help you get enough nutrition and keep your food interesting.
Smoothies are versatile and can be enjoyed at any time of day. Try yogurt, milk, and juice to keep smoothies thin. You can add fruits as well as vegetables to your smoothies.
Adding dark greens like kale and spinach help you get plenty of nutrition in your smoothie. Add other ingredients like tofu, oatmeal, bran, flax, and even supplements like protein powder to boost the nutrition in your smoothie.
You can augment your smoothie’s flavor by adding peanut butter, cocoa, maple syrup, honey, or spices like cinnamon.
You can puree most soups so you can drink them through a straw. Make a soup with lots of vegetables and proteins like meat or beans and blend it thoroughly for a flavorful and nutritious meal.
Try a cream soup or chowder that’s thoroughly pureed to add some additional calories to your diet.
Try pureeing casseroles with a variety of ingredients like meats and roasted vegetables with warm broth to keep your liquid diet flavorful.
Roasted, steamed, or boiled veggies
Almost any vegetable can be roasted. Throw a large batch of evenly chopped up veggies in the oven, or, toss the same veggies in a pot of water on the stove to cook them. Then puree them in a blender with some liquid.
Try peeling and roasting root veggies like potatoes, yams, carrots, and parsnips. Cauliflower gets a nutty flavor to it when it’s roasted.
It’s easy to steam vegetables like broccoli in the microwave inside a covered microwave-safe bowl with a few tablespoons of water.
Fruit juices may be a great way to start the morning. Thin Greek yogurt with milk or try Cream of Wheat for an easily drinkable breakfast.
Foods like applesauce, drinkable yogurts, pudding, and custards are soft and easy to thin out with water or milk for a go-to snack.
Supplemental liquid meals
Many baby foods are available in squeezable pouches. They’re often more flavorful and nutritious than what you’d find in traditional baby food jars.
Literally, try to spice things up. Salt and pepper are consistent flavor enhancers but paprika, fresh grated ginger, or non-spice flavor additions like a squeeze of lemon or lime can be just the thing to brighten up a soup or juice drink.
Focus on high protein and high calorie liquid meals that are low in volume because it will take an extended period of time and more effort to consume your meal. You should plan to eat up to six small meals each day.
Jaw wiring occurs after some types of jaw surgery or following a traumatic injury to your jaw.
You may have your jaw wired for up to six weeks while recovering and need to plan, prepare, and consume nutritious meals during that time.
Talk to your doctor in advance to plan for your recovery and dietary needs while your jaw is wired shut.