To optimize your recovery and speed your return to work and your regular life, consider following our suggested tips:
Elevation: Sleep with your head elevated above your heart for at least three nights. This will reduce swelling and discomfort and promote healing. You may sleep in a recliner or you may prop yourself up on a stack of pillows.
Cool Rinses: Use frequent cold water rinses to cool your tongue and your suture line for the first 2-4 days. Do not use ice, as ice placed directly on the suture line can interfere with healing.
Mouthwash Rinses: Rinse your mouth every 2-3 hours with diluted mouth wash. Do not use full strength, as this may cause burning. Instead, dilute it down to a ratio of 1 part mouthwash to 3 parts water to start with. Each day, make it slightly more concentrated so that you are up to full strength in about 10 days. Frequent oral rinses will also help you through the inevitable phase of halitosis (bad breath) which follows this procedure.
Blood and Secretions: Don’t swallow any of your own secretions for at least the first day. This is because you might be swallowing blood which has oozed from your suture line (more or less depending on the technique used). If you swallow blood, it will irritate your stomach lining and cause nausea for days. Spit it out instead.
Nutrition: For the first 6-12 hours, consume only cool or room-temp liquids. Make sure that your local anesthesia has worn off before trying anything that is above room temperature so that you do not inadvertently burn the inside of your mouth or your tongue. Cooler beverages are recommended for the first several days because they will be more soothing and will facilitate reduction of swelling, whereas warm beverages will contribute to swelling because they can promote vasodilation. Ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, and millkshakes are all good foods for the first day because they require no chewing and because they are cold. The day after surgery, you can continue to rely on these foods, or you can start soft foods that require no chewing.
Trush: Tongue-splitting patients are predisposed to thrush, which is a white coating of the tongue and throat due to Candida (yeast). The best way to prevent this is with frequent oral rinses with mouthwash, but it can develop anyway. If it does develop, ask your surgeon or a prescription for nystatin (an anti-yeast oral rinse ) and/or diflucan (a prescription pill for treatment of yeast). The yeast will eventually go away on its own, but these measures will get it to go away sooner.
Don’t play with the stitches! Resist every urge to do so. The longer your stitches stay in place, the less regrowth you are likely to have and the better will be your result.
Back to work: You may return to work as soon as you are off of prescription pain medication, which for many people is the day following surgery. If you would like to get off of your prescription pain medication sooner, ask your surgeon for non-narcotic pain medication such as Celebrex, which has greater potency than ibuprofen but which does not promote bleeding.
Training Your New Tongue: Please WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT. Then, please WAIT some more. There will be plenty of time to train your new tongue, but any attempt to start using your hemi-tongues independently during the early healing phase will only risk the extrusion of sutures and promote more regrowth than would otherwise occur. There will be plenty of time to train you new tongue after it has fully healed. We do not recommend starting to train your tongue for at least 2 weeks. Along these lines, please also resist all urges to play with the stitches.