Getting over an underbite

blogging my way through double jaw surgery

One Year 8 Months Post-Surgery

Every time I post on here now I think it’ll be my last time. But I thought of this blog recently and thought I’d do a quick update.

Physically I don’t think anything has changed since my last posts. My small areas of numbness are permanent. No biggie.

Every time I go to the dentist post-surgery they exclaim in delight over my mouth. For someone who used to rather not like going to the dentist, it’s a nice mood booster. Now it’s not bad at all. The hygienist will make some nice remarks as she cleans my teeth. Then the dentist is called in and he says how happy I must be with the results, how great I look etc. I go away feeling pretty good about myself. In fact I’d love to go to the dentist more frequently but it doesn’t seem to be the thing to do.

I run across the rare person who hasn’t seen me for some years, and while they don’t quite recognize me, they attribute it to how long it’s been since they’ve seen me. I feel obligated to explain the whole thing to them. More information than they wanted to know I’m sure.

indexMy face seems normal to me now. I can’t imagine going back to what it was. I say that, knowing that it was months and months after surgery that it did not seem right. I looked at other people’s faces a lot to see what average people’s faces really looked like. I felt like a chipmunk.

So anyway, if you have surgery and you have a hard time recognizing yourself for a while, it’s okay. It will come to be a part of you. I was okay with myself pre-surgery, since that’s the way I was made. That’s still the case. This is the way I’m made, and I function better now.

I was reading through some of my early recovery entries yesterday and it brought back a lot of emotions as I read. There were some challenging times. But it’s OVER.

If you’re just visiting the site for the first time and want to read more about post-surgery, it starts here. All of my blogging before that dealt with braces and insurance and the like.

Best wishes to anyone heading into jaw surgery in their own near future!

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I can eat celery

Here I am at 1 year and 10 weeks post surgery. Surgery and recovery are not a focus of life anymore. It’s not that I never think about it. I do, quite frequently. It’s just that life is so much more and beyond jaw surgery now.

Things I’ve gotten pretty used to

Here are the things that I’ve learned to live with, that are fading into the background the longer I go.

fingersSometimes I rub around on my face, where I can feel the screws in my upper jaw (I think I have 21 screws). I feel them bumpy under my skin, then try not to think about it too much. It’s just weird. I wonder about things like could I ever get a facial massage? But it’s nothing to get freaked about.

The small numb places are bothering me less. I’m starting to get so used to it they feel almost normal. I don’t think the feeling will ever come back there, honestly. But I know that with enough time I won’t notice it at all. I think maybe that nerve (under my nose) has healed all that it’s going to heal. It’s a bit disappointing. While it’s left some spots numb (mouth corners, upper gums), it’s left some of my upper gums extra sensitive. I could live without that but after all this time I just conclude it’s there to stay. Those upper teeth and gums just have their sensitive spots, and most of the time that doesn’t interfere with anything. I just have to be careful as I brush and floss, etc.

I’ve gotten totally used to the bone under my nose being off center. I think it’s pretty unnoticeable. It bothered me a lot for months and months. I’d just feel it, over and over again. Now I never think about it. The surgeon could fix it but I don’t want to bother.

The other thing I pay no mind to are the scars in my mouth. The whole surgery was done from openings inside my mouth. They have left scar lines that run taut. The surgeon has said I can massage them to help them soften up some. I just really haven’t remembered to do that. They do have strange sensations that might run along them sometimes. And they could trap food. But they really don’t bother me any more. And I just try to be care in keeping my teeth clean.

Still hoping these things improve

Here’s one thing that I do wonder if it will change more. From the beginning I’ve struggled with my lower jaw feeling at ease in it’s new location. For many months, I consciously kept my jaw in place. I’d catch it moving forward, and I’d bring it back again. It was months of uncomfortableness. I’d wake up at night and clench my jaw back in place. Well, after all this time, my jaw still does not feel comfortable staying in its right position. I have been trying to train these jaw muscles to stay and they just are not happy about it. The only time it doesn’t feel stressed that way is if I’m eating, or if I’m smiling. But to just close my mouth and keep it at rest? It doesn’t like it. So I don’t do it. Sure, when I think of it, but it doesn’t last. Maybe someday, someday, these muscles will get used to this new place.

My self image still takes some knocks sometimes. My face in the mirror still looks strange at times. I’ve not seen it enough years yet for me to be completely comfortable in this face. Maybe a hundred people have told me I look great this way, but my brain does not really think so. I don’t feel ugly, just not quite myself. A little odd.

Wins

celeryBut hey, I can eat celery. And carrot sticks. And granola bars. And corn on the cob, and sandwiches with lettuce and tomatoes. Anyone with a poor bite would understand how happy I am to be able to eat all these things, and more, with ease. I do eat lots of celery these days.

Conclusion, at 1 year, 2.5 months post-surgery

In this post I’ve written a lot more about the things I’m dealing with, then the benefits of this surgery. But with all that, I still say it was worth it! I’m so happy about everything I can eat normally.

I don’t have any picture updates this time. It’s not like last year where I changed so much I took pictures every little bit. I’ve not been in a picture since the one I put in the last post. I do think I look a bit different than a year ago due to my hair growing out and the extra 14 pounds, ha! But I really focus a lot more attention on taking pictures of other things these days, and blog about it over here. I’ll leave you with a picture I took this past week, from my front porch.

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One Year Post Surgery

It’s been a year (and 3 days) since I had my double jaw surgery. It’s felt like a long year, coming after a very long ramp-up time. However it’s over now, mostly! Not much has changed since my last post. Here’s where I see it at one year out.

Pros of Having Surgery Done

  • The most obvious is probably that my teeth fit together perfectly now, and this was my main reason to have the surgery. The results were top-notch; I am thankful for an excellent ortho and surgeon.
  • Just as importantly, I can bite and chew easier than I could before. Sometimes, I still find myself reverting to my old habits in eating, and have to consciously change it. For the most part, though, the eating process has become automatic again.
  • My face looks proportional on the outside. Although I really didn’t mind my face before, I do like my new profile a lot.
  • If my teeth fall out when I get old, I’ll be able to wear dentures.
  • The retainers I wear now are smaller and easier to manage than the ones I had before.
  • I can make a cheesy smile, and it looks like a cheesy smile. Before it just looked weird.
  • Through blogging and sharing about this, I’ve gotten more used to being open and vulnerable in public spaces. Good pictures and ugly pictures. Good days and bad days.
  • Bonus: I learned how to manage a blog.

The Not-so-Good Effects

  • As a result of being banded up for a month, I lost some enamel on three teeth (right where I would squirt my food in), and experienced some gum recession. But last week the dentist said I am doing A-okay with my mouth health. The damage isn’t bad enough to merit enamel or gum treatment, and is not really visible when I smile.
  • My nasal spine is slightly off-center now. But I got used to it months ago, it’s not noticeable unless you stare up my nose. Thankfully people are not staring up my nose with any regularity.
  • Recovery is a beast, physically, mentally and emotionally (I’ll just reference my blog posts from 1 year ago). Swelling takes months to go away, and I still have days where my face looks strange to me.

Things That I Still Hope Will Go Away

  • The nerve right under my nose hasn’t healed all the way. The healing of it feels infinitesimally slow. I hear that some people heal more even after a year, so I am still expectant. When I pinch that spot right under my nose, it’s still sore. My upper jaw (gums and teeth) are partially numb and partially extra sensitive. The outer ends of my upper lip are still numb. BUT it is a teeny weensy tiny bit better than 6 months ago. So, I hope. I’m used to it all now, but it would be nice to have that normal feeling back there.
  • My lower jaw has some random places that, when I touch then, sensations shoot along to somewhere else. It’s not pain, just a sensation; it’s a little hard to describe. The surgeon said that’s a pretty rare result. It would be nice if this goes a way but I’m not sure it will.

So, here are some pictures (for the new people that stumble upon this blog). For complete before and after comparison, you can look at this older post.

Pre-surgery

Post-Surgery

Even though I am getting used to my face and getting used to the new way of eating, I am pleased that I had this done. While I would never “do it again” as so many ask me (once is enough, people!), I’m happy with the decision and the results.

Six and Half Months Post-Surgery

Not as much news for this blog these days. But I want to do an occasional update, and leave it up for anyone looking for information on jaw surgery. Since my last post I have had a few doctor check -ins.

The Dentist:  Was happy with my care during braces and didn’t think I was urgently needing any work. He recommended waiting til next appt. to see how my gums fare. Especially since my teeth are still sensitive.

The Orthodontist: I had my first check-up since braces removal and everything is going peachy. He tightened my retainer slightly and asked if I’d seen the gum specialist yet. (I’m in no hurry for that, sir!)

The Surgeon: I was supposed to get after pictures taken yesterday, but they forgot to bring the camera to the (second) office. So it was a re-check instead and we rescheduled to go back in August. I asked him about all the little remaining things that are going on with me, and he explained and reassured. It was a bit frustrating to have to schedule yet another appointment, since it’s an hour and half drive to visit the doctor, and I have to take a half day off work.

So this is what it’s like for me, at six and half months post-surgery. I’ll try to list everything as it is now, so I apologize if I’m repeating myself.

Feeling: It’s the same as my last post. He was surprised I had any numbness left on my face (upper lip corners) and said he hoped feeling would return. Humph. My upper jaw (inside) is half numb and half sensitive. This apparently is perfectly ok and he thinks it will eventually return to normal.  If I tap on my upper teeth they hurt, and if I bite straight down on something really hard (think granola bar) my teeth hurt. The gums are sensitive as well. I have found a great mouthwash that helps address the sensitivity (The Natural Dentist) and use it ritually.

Other pain: The back part of my jaws near the joints hurt when I press on them or if I yawn too wide. This could be, he says, from my muscles that are not fully retrained and keep trying to make lower jaw go the old way. I massage these areas, which apparently is the right thing to do. He told me to check and make sure I am not grinding my teeth at night or I would need a night guard. I can’t tell what I am doing while I am sleeping.  Who knows?

Odd things: I have sensations that shoot through my cheek when I touch certain parts of it, inside or out. At first I thought it was my scars that were carrying the sensations, but it’s more than that. Just funny feeling like zinging traveling through certain muscles. I got a whole lesson from the doctor on why this happens, how this happens to a minor percentage of patients, and it may be due to genetics that it only happens to certain people. I don’t know if that will ever go away. At least it’s not painful. Just weird. Especially since chewing food tends to hit those areas a lot.

Normalcy: My brain and my muscles do not think that this is the appropriate place for my jaws to be. Whenever I hold my mouth in the correct position for very long (like say more than 30 seconds), my head tells me it’s not right. I start feeling some muscle strain. The doctor said as long as my teeth are in the right position when I eat, I shouldn’t worry much about it otherwise. Really, he says, 6 months is not a very long time to retrain your muscles. Point taken.

On a different note, I am used to my face!  That took long enough.  Chewing is much much easier now. I rarely think about it. The weight I lost with surgery? That came back like that! after resuming normal food. Definitely no problem gaining back.

Here’s my normal face!  I love it that I am okay with it now!

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6.27.14

And below is an old one of me (one year ago!) for comparison.

past pic2

Naked Teeth (5 months)

On May 7 (3 days ago) I got my braces off, two years to the day from when I got them on. Tomorrow is 5 months since I had surgery. It’s been a long two years and a bit of a roller coaster ride. From early days of waiting for insurance pre-approval, to months of agonizing insurance ups and downs after my teeth were ready, to finally the months of recovery.

At the Orthodontist:

Yay

Photo from the orthodontist after getting the braces off

The staff at the orthodontist office were all so pleased for me, telling me over and over again how great my teeth look. I was asked if they could post my before and after pictures on Instagram, and pic on Facebook.They even sent me a card and a certificate in the mail afterward with my before and after pictures.

The process itself of getting the braces off was pretty painful, which I was expecting. I had brackets pretty far back, I have sensitive spots (more than I knew), and I still have tender cheeks. After over an hour of popping, wrenching and grinding, I made it though. I just felt relief that I survived this far. One of the nurses told me I was glowing. 🙂

I have two of the tiniest retainers I’ve ever seen. The bottom teeth have a permanent retainer, which is just a small wire glued to the front teeth only. In fact, it’s only glued to the corner teeth, which is even better. Much easier to clean around than my old one which had gobs of glue on each tooth. The top retainer is basically for my front teeth only. I only have to wear it at night (~8-10 hours). This is great news. I do not have to keep up with it during the day. Ever. Yay.

Here is my status at 5 months:

Eating: I can eat anything I want! My teeth were sore due to all the trauma of brace removal, but that is lessening. It is still hard to chew some things and my jaws get tired if I chew a lot. Sometimes I accidently chew the inside of my cheeks. Sometimes I drip when I drink if I’m not careful (probably related to the lingering numbness).

Numbness: I am still numb in the upper corners of my mouth. Also most of my upper jaw is still numb.

Pain: Where the feeling is coming back in my gums they are very sensitive. The tenderness in my back cheeks has slowly started to go down a little bit in the last week. If I press at the very back of jaws it does still hurt. Not sure why.

Mouth Health:I’m not too happy with the state of my mouth. My orthodontist actually recommended I see a gum specialist and said I may need gum drafts. To be fair most of my gum issues were from my 20s, but it doesn’t get ever just get better. Also my tooth enamel is not in the best shape as a result of being banded. I am working hard to get and stay mouth healthy.

Just strange: My tongue seems longer than my bottom teeth. If I put it behind my teeth, it feels squished. It does fit mostly behind my upper teeth, so it usually ends up there, then I hold my teeth slightly open in a resting position.

Image: I think I have finally gotten used to how I look in the mirror. It seems normal to me. Not long-time, familiar-face normal, but a you’re-really-not-that-strange normal. Some days I feel almost pretty.

So anyway in spite of the lingering recovery issues, I am doing really well. I do feel immensely relieved to have made it this far. When I looked in the mirror at the orthodontist, it didn’t even look like my teeth to me. What are those perfectly aligned teeth doing in my mouth?!

My next steps are teeth cleaning in a week, retainer check in 5 weeks, and surgeon after pictures in 7 weeks. But I am free and clear.

Here are some before and after pictures. I tried to find comparison pictures with basically the same angle.

May2014A

May2014B

May2014C

mAY2014d

 

 

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