Holy sh*t I am nervous!
Reasonably so, I suppose. Jaw surgery is (apparently) a big deal, especially for me who has not had any surgery besides the classic wisdom teeth removal.
There are three reasons I created this little blog:
- So I have something besides typical recovery activities (schoolwork, netflix, knitting, staring at my cat do weird stuff) to do for the couple weeks which I will be pretty tired and whatnot,
- As a way to keep my family and friends updated on what exactly is going on with my jaw and my life in the weeks leading up to and after my surgery. I am going to be very busy in the week before surgery and very (very very very) out of it for a bit after the surgery so I will probably fail to update many of you on how I am doing/feeling,
- As a way to help anyone else who may have to go through jaw surgery. It seems so minor to a lot of people who have not/will not go through it but let me tell you, IT IS A BIG DEAL. They are changing my face, dude. I am going to look like a different person and that is scary. Also, if you keep reading through this post/other posts, you will quickly realize how intense and life-altering the recovery after surgery can/will be. Lastly, I have read countless other blogs on jaw surgery and they have really helped me learn about what to expect, and things to do to aid with recovery.
So. Why am I even getting surgery? Seems like a lot of pain just to look better. Right?
It is NOT about cosmetics… let me explain.
It all started in the 9th grade (2008-2009). Like many awkward, barely post-pubescent kids, I needed braces. But I didn’t just have crooked teeth, I had a nasty overbite- my teeth stuck out ten miles (I blame my parents for not taking that DAMN soother when they should have, lol) and my jaw was receded (much father back than normal… I blame genetics, not parenting choices, for this one). I met with the orthodontist in the 9th grade and had my gorgeous braces on by the 10th grade. Fast forward to near the end of the 12th grade (2012) and boom they’re gone! Yay!! Perfect smile (despite the receded jaw which didn’t bother me), no pain, felt like a 10/10, braces off by prom, no one could make fun of my teeth anymore, couldn’t be better!! Right?
Fast forward again to my first year of university (also 2012). I woke up one morning and to put it quite simply, I could not open my mouth. Not a centimetre. Nothing. What did I think of this? Same thing most people would think… “what the f*ck?!”
I panicked (reasonable reaction I say), and then googled. I googled a lot. Google told me that I had lockjaw. Per usual, google cannot be trusted during medical emergencies, so I just kind of waited it out. 3 weeks later, I could open my mouth, but barely. I could not eat much, and when I did it hurt. It really, really hurt. I kept waiting, and about a year later, I could open my mouth a reasonable amount but it hurt all the time, especially when eating. Also, now my jaw was clicking/popping every single time it opened, it felt “dislocated”, meaning it felt like it was moved to one side and back further than before. I decided it was time to see someone.
I started by seeing my regular dentist (2013). They did a check up and an X-ray and she told me that this was happening because my wisdom teeth were coming in. I thought that my severe symptoms and the duration of their existence suggested another issue, but she was the expert so I trusted her.
In 2014 I had three wisdom teeth removed (the fourth is a late bloomer or will never make its appearance).The three that were coming in were sideways and all had cysts around them so it wasn’t a cute experience. I opted for the anesthesia because I did not see the point in being awake for such a terrible experience. I woke up in the recovery room stoned out of my mind, swallowed a pill because the nurse asked me to, and then walked out to the car to experience a 2-hour drive home with my parents feel like two minutes because I was so out of it. That part was great but the fun ended there.
Disclaimer: I am not a wimp. I have a rather high tolerance for physical pain.
I expected the days following surgery to be painful, but I was in absolute agony- but only on the left side. I had all my medication gone within the first 72 hours (should have lasted a week) and I demanded more. Surprise surprise, surgeons don’t just hand out oxycodone and etodolac for fun (too bad for me) so I made an appointment with the doctor at the office where I had my surgery because I thought I must have an infection or dry socket.
Nooope. Healing perfectly.
“Okay, so now what?” I thought. What the heck am I supposed to do to get rid of this pain?? As it turns out, there was nothing I could do besides wait it out. So I waited, and waited, and waited, for about 4 weeks. This was the point where the pain subsided enough for me to try and eat some normal food again. It took about 9-10 weeks for me to get back to eating a normal diet without any issues, but the pain never completely went away. Symptoms kept getting worse… the left side of my face often swells, and I feel pain from my ear to my neck. I get headaches that resonate from my jaw, and often the problems with my jaw and inner ear make me feel light-headed and dizzy.
I reached my breaking point and went back to my original orthodontist in 2014. He felt terrible for everything I had been going through. He did some looking around, some X-rays, and other orthodontist-type things, and came to the conclusion that I had severe TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder). There doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a lot besides the basics known about TMD in the medical world, and what is known is often met with opposition. But in my case, the general idea of what happened is that my poor bite (overbite, multiple teeth not touching) created pressure when I would bite down. Apparently, I clench my jaw in my sleep (that was news to me) which caused the TMJ to finally dislocate itself. Eventually, where the joint once was became home to lots of scar tissue and now they say I have a good change of someday having arthritis in my jaw. Yuck. Also, I wasn’t crazy for feeling as if my jaw was moving- the TMD changed the position of some weird internal parts that I am not familiar with- the constant clenching and whatnot also causes my face to swell which means one side is different from the other. My orthodontist did not want to go forward with surgery to adjust my bite right away, but knew it was a likely outcome. I started with a bite plate and lots of anti-inflammatory medication, and stuck with that until 2016, when I decided that it wasn’t helping (orthodontist agreed) and that we needed to go forward with surgery.
That meant braces again.
It really, really, stung to have to get those back on- I was SO excited to have them off back in the 12th grade and I did not want them back on for the second time. But in Fall 2015, on they went… 22 and in a Masters program with braces is not what I expected but I’m making the best of it- dealing with the braces is easier knowing that I am working towards a reduced-pain, perfect smile outcome. For the past year and a half, the braces have been essentially making my teeth worse (creating spaces, moving them to weird looking places, etc) so that once the surgery is completed the surgeon and orthodontist can work together to create my new (perfect, finally) smile.
The surgery that I am having isn’t exactly to fix the joint itself, but it is to adjust my jaw to improve my bite so that I don’t clench, which takes pressure off the joint on my bad side, and will help prevent the same thing from happening on the other side. In the world of jaw surgery, the surgery I am having is relatively simple. It’s called a mandibular osteotomy; the surgeon will make cuts behind my molars and lengthwise down the jawbone, and then move my jaw out into its new position. It’s held together by screws. The surgeon will also be doing a small surgery on my chin (genioplasty) which involves cutting behind the chin bone and bringing it out into its new position. All together, the actual surgical procedures are expected to last between 2-4 hours.
My orthodontist is in P.E.I (where I am from) and my surgery is in Nova Scotia (about 4 hours from my hometown, but also where I am currently attending university). I have my pre-op appointment with the surgeon on the 1st. This will be in Nova Scotia, and it is an all-day appointment. I go in at 7:30am and I will be there until about 3:00pm. This time will be filled with moulds of my teeth/my bite, X-rays, blood work, and meeting with my surgeon and anesthesiologist, among other small things. I go back to P.E.I on the 6th to get my giant, metal surgical hooks on and see my orthodontist one last time before surgery. My surgery is on February 15th, currently scheduled for 11:30am (this time could change) which means we will have to be at the hospital for 8am. My lovely parents are making the drive over and staying in a nearby hotel until I am ready to go home (I’m recovering in P.E.I) and will be at the hospital from the time I go in until I am safe and in recovery. It is expected I will be in the hospital for 2-3 nights.
I have great professors at school, and I have been granted extensions if I need them. However, I hope to get a lot done in advance before surgery to help make my recovery more relaxing. Being at my parents with people to help me out (and my dog and cat) should make things easier.
My next post will talk about my most feared area of the surgery recovery- the diet. *cries*
Overall, I am scared BUT I am excited to see the outcome of the surgery once I am healed.
- Mary Jo