1.5 Years Later: Jawshank Redemption

It’s been a year and a half and some of you have asked for an update. We’ve been very busy because we’re adopting a child! It’s difficult to post an update that you’ll relate to because adoption brings on a lot of stress, physical and emotional, which has made it hard to tell which symptoms are from jaw surgery and which are from stress. But here goes…

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Perfect Bite!

One of the risks with jaw surgery is that the bite will shift after surgery. I still wear my retainer every night while I sleep (removable retainers, as well as permanent wires). I’m sure this has helped. I saw Dr. T. last month and he told me my bite is still perfect. I also saw my orthodontist and he said my results were in the top 5%, couldn’t have asked for better. So, yay!

Your midlines are perfection.

Just look at those midlines.

Symptoms

This is a tough one. When I don’t move my face, I couldn’t tell that I ever had the surgery. Ditto when I talk. But when I smile, there is still a faint tightness in the cheeks. Dr. T. says this will go away, but it may take up to 4 years. Progress is so slow, it’s as tedious as watching ice water come to a boil.

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Or this.

I just have to put it out of my head. I find measurable details and check back a few months later. For example, I had a slightly numb spot above my lip. It’s not 100%, it’s about 80%, and it gets better by about 2% every month. Will it get there? It’s hard to imagine, but it’s not impossible. Dr. T. can tell it will come back because he pokes it with a needle and I yelp, so it’s not dead. Trust. You have to trust your surgeon. It’s not easy, because up until surgery this person feels like a somewhat stranger.

"I'll just take your word for it."

I’ll just take your word for it.

For a few weeks after the 1-year mark, I had a lot of weird things going on in my joints. This was because my lateral jaw movement was coming back. Sometimes I’d be talking or eating and my jaw would suddenly jerk to one side or the other and it would hurt, because it’d never gone that far before. This was frustrating. I started taking glucosamine to lubricate the joints and this worked like a dream. I honestly wish I’d started taking this supplement right after surgery. Some people say it works miracles and now I’m a believer. I still take it now.

Do you have this in a bigger bottle?

Imma just grab the case.

Stress Clenching

The last few months have been incredibly tense for me because we’re going through an adoption process. And what I’ve learned about myself is that I tense my whole body and face when I’m stressed, even happy stress. I flex my toes, make fists with my hands, tense my shoulders and clench my jaw.

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Everything is wonderful!

This has brought on symptoms that made me very worried. Tingling and zinging came back. I was so worried that I avoided seeing my surgeon about it. I was afraid he’d tell me that this is what I had to live with for the rest of my life. I finally gathered the courage and he said they were symptoms brought on by stress. Sure enough, I went home and took an anti-anxiety medication and all of my symptoms vanished. I mean everything. My face felt normal for the first time since surgery, completely!

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A clue, but sadly, not a solution.

So Dr. T. gave me prescription anti-inflammatory medication to get me through the hard days, and I have an appointment scheduled with my family doctor to find ways to ease my stress. I try meditating to relax every part of my body, finishing with my face, and this helps but then I go about my day and tense up again, and tingling starts over. The anti-inflammatory meds work, but I don’t remember to take them with me everywhere.

Hide yo knives!

One fine morning, I was washing my face when I felt a tremendously sharp pain high up my gum, under my nose. I lifted my gum and saw this foreign black knob sticking out of my gum. In true form, I panicked and called my surgeon’s emergency line, my husband and cancelled my plans for the weekend: my hardware is coming out of my gums!

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I nearly fainted and was on my back waiting for the surgeon to call back. And then… the thing dislodged. It came loose. I braced myself for a gush of blood, things were happening fast, this was serious. I reached into my mouth to take the screw off my tongue. That’s when I realized it wasn’t a screw. It was a sharp little piece of cocoa.

Next thing you know, the phone’s ringing and it’s the surgeon’s office calling me back all concerned. I told them what happened and they laughed out loud and said it’s ok. They pulled up my file and I said please don’t, I’ve already wasted so much of your valuable time with my ridiculousness! But, if you do, please put a large, bright post-it on my folder that says “CRAZY LADY”. The lesson here? Investigate before calling the surgeon, the family and the pope!

Um, yes... Could I still have that table for two this evening? My schedule opened up.

Honey, cancel all my plans for the next three weeks.

Appearance

I’m finally comfortable with how my face looks from the side and head-on, as long as I’m not talking. There are not many opportunities to watch yourself in the mirror while you talk. Yesterday I had my hair done and it took 4 hours. Every time I saw myself talking in the mirror, I felt so disturbed with how my mouth moves. It looks unnatural to me. I feel very self-conscious when I’m talking to someone face-to-face, like over coffee. I feel my face moving and ask myself if I look funny to that person, if my mouth is moving funny. It’s a terrible mind-game and gives me lots of anxiety. I’m obviously a very high-anxiety person. I need to get out of my own head and forget about it. I’m not sure what will help me get over this. I’d say it took me a year to get used to my new face, and it’ll take me at least another year to accept the way I look while I’m talking and my mouth is moving. I didn’t expect this, and others might not have this problem, but I’m putting it out there.

As well, I’ve reached a point where I can’t remember what things looked or felt like before surgery. What’s normal? Did my face really change? It’s an eery feeling. When I look at old pictures I wonder if I really looked that different before. But then if I put them side by side, like below, I see lots has changed. For example, my nose seems longer and wider now. My eyes too. My smile is definitely wider. There’s less gum and you can see more of my teeth when I smile. I also look older.

BeforeAfter

My aesthetician had some interesting feedback for me several months after surgery, she said: “You used to be, like, chipmunk-cute. And now you’re just cute.”

Wait, what?!

Wait, what?

More Than You Can Chew

Open bite sufferers! I spent 30 years eating with an open bite and there are things I did that I never noticed. I bit off more than I could chew and I dealt with it by trying to chomp it all down. When eating in public, I was mortified when I bit into something and got way more than I could handle, and had to pull large chunks of food or slices of tomato out of my mouth and back onto my plate. When I tried to eat sushi, or a burrito, or hamburger and the whole thing fell apart on my plate and in my hands, often on my shirt.

Pizza-night camoufflage?

Pizza Night Camouflage.

It is so awesome to be able to measure the bite you want to take it and get just that, not more. My eating is so much cleaner. My foods don’t look butchered. The last bite of my sandwich, wrap or hamburger is neat and clean, my hands are clean, my plate is clean. I underestimated how great this would be! I’m also using my front teeth now. I didn’t realize how long it takes to replace old habits, like biting into things with my side-teeth, or chewing more slowly because I can manage the small amount of food in each bite. I didn’t think this would be the best part about surgery but it’s definitely life-changing.

Any questions?

I can’t think of anything else at the moment, but if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them. I still get iPhone notifications when someone posts a comment, and try my best to answer the same day. I know how worrisome this process is. So here are a bunch of photos of the last month to show you that everything is fine and you will smile again soon!

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Day 365: One Year Later

It’s been exactly one year since I had double jaw surgery. If the total recovery period for double jaw surgery is one year, then this whole process, from start (braces) to finish (one year post-op) has taken 1 year, 8 months and 11 days. That was enough time for my sister to get married and have a baby.

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This surgery has improved my quality of life in a few ways I expected but also in a lot of ways I didn’t expect. Those mysterious ear aches I got before surgery? Haven’t had one since. Used to be that cold or hot wind caused an ear ache and I haven’t had that since. My neck feels more relaxed at night when I lay my head on my pillow. I didn’t realize that my neck could be affected by the structure of my face! Also, I am enjoying biting into things I never dared to before with my open bite. Here are just a few of the things I can bite into that I had to cut into small pieces before surgery.

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Range of Motion

I’m slowly regaining the range of motion in my lower jaw, the ability to move it left, right and forward. That was very slow to return and was part of the reason it took a long time to eat a normal diet. The initial motion I had was up and down, which makes it hard but manageable to chew things. The left and right motion is needed to really mash up paper-thin foods like lettuce and apple peel. Here’s where my motion is right now.

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It’s still very limited but it’s slowly returning. Along with this comes some discomfort in the jaw joints. After taking these pictures, my jaw joints were very annoyed. In the past month I’ve also been hearing some crackling noise in my jaw joints, like the sound of rice krispies in a bowl of milk. I started taking a glucosamine supplement thinking that the joint lubrication would help and just as I expected, the sounds disappeared. I also made an appointment with Dr. T. to make sure everything was ok and he said this was normal and that things were just falling into place.

Remaining Changes

I still feel like I’m recovering and that my journey may take a little longer than others. They say that at the six-month mark, what you have is what you’ll live with forever. This certainly was not the case for me. For example, the fullness of my lips only came back a couple months ago. Every week they seem to be getting bigger. Also, my smile is getting bigger as my cheeks start stretching more and more to reveal all my teeth when I smile. I had some major stiffness in my face for months after surgery and I still feel like my cheeks are regaining elasticity. My facial expressions and the way my mouth moves are still improving and becoming more natural with each passing month. I also still get tingling and tickling in my face as nerves are still slowly regenerating. Dr. T. said that it could take up to 4 years for me to be able to feel like this surgery never happened. Based on my progress, seems like it might take me 2 years total.  I’ll keep posting periodic updates until I reach that point. 

Day 310: Jawful and Triumphant

I hope everyone had a happy holiday season! It is certainly was the ha-happiest time of the year for someone who was almost 10 months out of jaw surgery. Here’s an update!

Smile, Bite and Swelling

Here are several angles of my face showing you my new jaw alignment, smile and bite. I’m still adjusting to the physical changes and I have good days when I’m happy and bad days when I have difficulty reconciling what I’m seeing in the mirror.

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Bite Post-Braces

I’m very lucky that my bite hasn’t shifted since my braces were removed a couple months ago. Definitely my teeth would love to move if I didn’t wear my retainer each night to sleep. When I put on my retainer at night, it feels very tight and a little sore for a couple minutes. It’s definitely important to wear that retainer as instructed, even if you have the permanent wires glued to the insides of your teeth like I have, those aren’t enough to hold your teeth in place. It will take years for my teeth to stop trying to move again and if I remember correctly, it’s because the surgery hasn’t changed the muscle memory in my face, so each time I swallow which is thousands of times a day, my face muscles try to push my teeth back to their old position.

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Symptoms

It’s difficult to describe the only remaining symptom in a way that makes sense to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Imagine you had dental work that required some needle-freezing. And that freezing will wear off in exactly 4 hours. Well right now the area around my mouth feels like I’m 3 hours and 45 minutes into it. It’s not numb, I can feel it all. But there’s a very, very faint feeling that remains. It does continue to improve but I have been tremendously worried that I have permanent nerve damage. And I think this worrying ties into the fatigue I mention later in this post. Dr. T. assures me that it’s normal and can take a full year or even up to 4 years for this to disappear, but he assures me, it will go away. It’s definitely not a numbness, just a faint tightness. When my face is completely still, I don’t feel anything at all and it’s like the surgery never happened. When I’m smiling and talking, I feel it a little. When I pucker my lips, I feel it the most. I know it’s improving because I put on some lip liner and the feeling of pressure of the lip liner becomes more pronounced each week, if that makes sense. Also, since I originally started writing this post two weeks ago, I’ve felt a great improvement. I also had a lot of tingling in the past two weeks which was strange, almost like the tingling went away for several weeks but then came back. I saw Dr. T. last week and he told me not to worry and this means nerves are still regenerating. What a long recovery!

Weight Loss, Weight Gain

I struggled with my weight for several months after surgery. Initially, I lost about 10lbs but that came back lightning fast in the second month after surgery. It seemed like my body was trying to hold on to every last pound, converting fat at an alarming rate. I was gaining weight like crazy. I’m usually about 127lbs but I quickly went up to 135lbs. If I had a hamburger and fries, I’d wake up two pounds heavier and not just for a few days either, I had to work it off at the gym and by restricting calories for several days afterwards. It didn’t make any sense and felt like my body was out of control. I do Pilates 4 or 5 times a week and I eat a paleo diet and I still gained weight. I wasn’t putting on muscle either, my body was all soft and bloated. Unless I was eating 1200 calories a day, I was gaining weight. It was very depressing. Before surgery, I could probably eat up to 2500 calories a day without gaining anything. Only in the past two weeks did my metabolism appear to return to normal. My muscles have also developed a lot over the last two months which is strange because nothing has really changed in my exercise regime since last April but I’m now putting on major muscle mass. So I’m assuming that my body was too busy healing or stressing out to respond to food and exercise normally.  

As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again!

As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.

Weather Girl

I have a new talent now, I can predict weather changes. I can feel it in my face. It’s a feeling of pressure. Apparently this is common after surgeries and it’s due to drops in barometric pressure which can cause increased swelling and inflammation in injured bones. They say that anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol can help when this happens but I haven’t tried it yet. It’s pretty funny when I massage my face and announce that it’s going to rain.

Back to you, John!

Better pack an umbrella!

Hypersensitivity

It’s as if I have brand-new nerves in my face, the surface of my skin is hypersensitive right now. My husband has a beard and I have to approach him very carefully or else it feels like I have a cactus on my face!

cactus

Come here, baby!

A hot beverage touching my lips can feel like fire if I don’t wait for it to cool down or ask for a touch of cold water in it. I’m guessing it will take a lot more time for this sensitivity to lessen, but in the meantime…

coffee

I’ll have a Grande!

Whitening the Stains 

I just started a teeth whitening treatment to get rid of the stains that accumulated after surgery. I’m doing the treatment that involves removable custom trays and the gel. The treatment cost was supposed to be $100 for the removable trays plus $10 for each syringe of whitening gel, but since I already had the plaster molds of my teeth from my orthodontist’s final records, my dentist brought it down to $50 and used the existing molds to make the trays. I only got three tubes of whitening gel which I think will be enough to get rid of these stains, so it only came out to $80 total (update: I needed 6 tubes in total, so it was $110 total). Definitely worth it! Here you can see how white my teeth were before braces and surgery, and how stained they were when my braces came off…

Stains

Post-Op Fatigue

For several months after surgery I felt really fatigued. I think it was the stress of the recovery and the daily and weekly changes happening to my face – it’s enough to make anyone crazy. I found a supplement that helped me tremendously, it’s called Ortho-Adapt. It’s meant to reduce the impact of stressful conditions and prevent the body from overreacting to stressors. The effects of this supplement for me have been magical. I’d say one of the most difficult aspects of this surgery has been all of the anxiety before, during and after the surgery, and this just helps keep me calm and as a result, I feel like I have more energy during the day! Everyone’s body and stress response is different but I thought I’d share anyway because it helps me so much.

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Perfect Jaw Surgery Flashlight

After jaw surgery I experienced a lot of problems breathing through my nose and with banded-shut teeth, it made it hard to breathe all-around. I had to clean out my nose a lot the first few days and I found it awkward to hold a flashlight and a mirror and q-tips to clean my nose. I was putting a few drops in my electric oil diffuser or “wax warmer” the other day and I realized that this would have been the perfect flashlight for my recovery. The top tray is removable and inside is a flash light that points upwards and the base is stable, unlike the handle of a regular flashlight. If I could go back in time, I’d have used this $10 gadget from Walmart to illuminate my nose. Then, I could have set it on a table and hovered over it, used a handheld mirror and a q-tip and gotten my nose cleaned much faster! I’m going to recommend it on the Supplies section of the blog because maybe this will help someone out there.

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Well that’s all I can think of for now! I still receive comment notifications via email so feel free to ask any questions below!

Day 240: Before & After Open Bite

Here are a few images of my open bite before I started the orthodontic treatment and the ones to the right show after I had my braces removed last month. It’s quite a difference. My arches are wider, my bite is fully closed. Dr. T. also corrected the “tilt” in my upper teeth which is so noticeable. You can also see that my pearly whites took a beating this year. I have many stains and have noticed some translucence in the front teeth. I immediately scheduled a thorough cleaning, for which I’m way overdue. That may remove some of the yellow surface stains and I may even have them professionally whitened, $200 in my dentist’s office. Go big or go home, right?

openbitebeforeaftersurgery

Day 220: Financials

I thought I would do a post to outline the costs I incurred throughout this process. Keep in mind that I live in Ontario where OHIP covers medically necessary (not cosmetic) maxillofacial surgical procedures done in the hospital. Also, my husband and I don’t have any private health insurance through work so we paid a lot of things out of pocket that would likely have been covered in part or in full by a good private plan. Definitely worth investigating before starting this process. So here is what it all cost.

Orthodontics & Surgeon Fees – $13,500

This included the initial records, case planning, braces, permanent retainers, removable retainers and final records, my initial consultation with the surgeon, records, case planning and all of the visits in his office pre and post-op. The fees were charged separately between the two offices but I don’t want to break it down in case you’re seeing the same professionals and are quoted more or less; these fees were based on my specific treatment plan. But based on my research, they fall within the normal range.

Double Jaw Surgery – $0

I read somewhere that this type of surgery runs around $30,000 in Canada and around $50,000 in the U.S. Luckily for me, it was covered by OHIP.

Hospital Stay – $0

I wasn’t billed anything for my two-day hospital stay.

Medication & Supplies – $150

The medications I took following surgery and all of the little supplies I needed to recover came out to $150.

Parking Fees – $100

Includes all the hospital parking fees for the pre-op appointments and my husband’s fees  visiting me in the hospital.

A good private health insurance plan through work may have covered part of this or the whole thing, It may seem like a lot to pay out of pocket but I can’t put a price on the increased quality of life and I couldn’t have hoped for a better result. But if I could do it over, I’d buy a good private health insurance plan way before starting this journey.

Adjusting to my new smile

Adjusting to my new face has been a struggle. I’m not comfortable with my smile right now even though I know the teeth are nice and straight and close, it’s just psychological. When I look in the mirror I get creeped out. I’m sure this will just take some time. I haven’t really posed for any pictures since I took the photos in the orthodontist’s chair. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it’s like looking in a mirror at a fun-house, only the image doesn’t ever change back. It’s mind-boggling. They do tell you to prepare for this psychological effect but my feeling is that only time will help me get used to it.

Remaining Side-Effects

The only evidence that I had jaw surgery remains a general tightness in my lower face. All of the feeling is back but there remains a sort of stiffness, very minor but I do feel it throughout the day. The progress is so, so, so slow, like Dr. Tocchio has warned me over and over. If I had to put it into estimates, I’d say it’ll take another 5 months for this remaining part to be gone, which brings me to the one year mark and is on par with the doctor’s estimates.

Final Records

Today I went in to take my final records photos and x-rays at Dr. Cameron’s office. I will call them in a week or so and see if they can email me the images to post on my blog. I look forward to seeing the drastic difference in my bite and also, a better idea of the structural changes that have happened to my face.

Don’t Blink

I take instructions very seriously so while we were doing the final records photos, I was told not to blink and I think I nailed it! More photos soon…

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Day 197: Removable Retainers

I picked up my removable retainers from my orthodontist office today. The imprints for the trays were made last week. These removable retainers are meant to prevent a relapse of my bite. Here’s a picture of the trays on my teeth.

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Before putting the trays they made me initial a paper that said if I don’t wear these removable retainers as instructed my bite could relapse. The instructions said that I should wear them 24 hours a day for the first 30 days. I only need to wear the upper tray during the day, and both while I sleep. After a month, I’ll only have to wear both trays while I sleep. Eventually, I’ll wear both trays one night a week for the rest of my life.

In the six days it took to wait for my trays, I felt a slight change in my bite. The feeling was similar to when you have an orthodontic adjustment and you wake up the next morning feeling a small change in the way your molars touch. My orthodontist said that teeth settle a little when the braces come off and not to worry about it. He checked my bite thoroughly and said everything is just fine. Within one hour of wearing the trays, my teeth were already a little sore. The trays were already correcting the slight movement that happened over the last six days.

I thought I would be pretty bummed to have to wear these trays, but it was surprisingly comforting. After all the work that I’ve had done on my jaws and teeth, it felt a little scary to be free of any type of hardware. It’s a bit of a pain to have to take these out every time I want to eat or drink anything other than water. After I eat, I have to brush my teeth and rinse the trays before putting them back in. Putting the trays on dirty teeth can cause cavities. The trays are clear so they warned I should never put them on a white napkin because I risk throwing them out by accident.

I’m adjusting to my new smile and enjoying my new bite. Having this new mouth is like having a brand new BMW after years of driving an old clunker.

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Day 190: Brace-Off!

My braces were removed today after fifteen months! That’s nine months before my surgery and six months afterwards. I’m pretty stunned right now. Am I dreaming?bracesphoto20130911-135457.jpg

Before removing the braces, my orthodontist installed the permanent retainers on my upper and lower teeth. This process is simple enough except that it involves keeping your mouth wide-open for 10 minutes straight, which is a bit challenging after surgery, but whatever, just get these brackets off! Here’s a glimpse of the bottom wire.

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I’ll be wearing these permanent wires for the rest of my life. I will also be wearing a removable retainer for several weeks to make sure my teeth don’t move over the next couple months. They took impressions of my teeth for the removable retainer today and I will be picking it up in a week. My teeth may shift a little bit over the next week while I wait for the retainer, but my orthodontist says that this will be fixed overnight with the removable retainer. Eventually I will be wearing this removable retainer one night per week for the rest of my life. This is only precautionary. I don’t even think all orthodontists do this. It’s a bummer that I’ll be wearing it probably all day for at least a month, but I have to think long-term. It would definitely suck if my teeth shifted over the next year after all this effort! After applying the permanent retainers, the braces came off. Here’s a picture of all of the material I had in my mouth.

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Removing the brackets was pretty painful for me for two reasons. The first is that I have very increased gum sensitivity right now due to my surgery. This is not always the case for everyone. To remove each bracket, my orthodontist use some type of pliers to apply pressure to the bracket until it literally snapped. If you’ve had surgery within the past five months, try pushing on your teeth with your fingers to see if you feel any pain. If you don’t feel any pain, you probably won’t when they remove your brackets. If you do, pop some Advil before you go! For me, it felt like he was literally pulling out all of my teeth. I was in so much pain that I was crying almost the whole time, and my right fist kept creeping upwards as though I was going to punch him in the face! At one point, the assistant had to hold my hands down, we were all afraid. The process only took about 20 minutes. I was so, so relieved when it was over and visibly shaken. Dr. Cameron explained that clear brackets are more difficult to remove and than metal brackets. They require more pressure to break. This is the second reason why the removal was so painful for me. I asked him if clear brackets are not such a great option for jaw surgery patients who suffer from increased sensitivity. He said everyone is so different so it’s hard to say.

Swollen Gums

My bottom gums were very angry after they removed the bottom brackets. Here’s a photo. Can you tell I was crying? Ouchie. My gums are very swollen and Dr. Cameron said the swelling will disappear over the next week.

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Then came the final part, removing the glue off my teeth. This didn’t take long at all, maybe five minutes. Afterwards, my teeth were polished using a gritty toothpaste to brush off any stains that had accumulated over the past 15 months. I was so worried that I would have some stains or some decalcification on my teeth. Remember that I couldn’t really brush my teeth for three weeks straight after surgery! Would my teeth look rotten underneath all those brackets?!

I asked Dr. Cameron if I should be afraid of this. He said that teeth can look chalky after the braces come off. He said this usually goes away after 24 hours. When he finished, I took a deep breath and looked into the mirror. I was absolutely surprised to see that my teeth looked extremely healthy. After everything I put them through! The hygienist even commented how white my teeth look despite the whole process!

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I’m so happy to have my braces removed. It’s a little bit weird to look into the mirror. I really do like the way the teeth look and I also can’t believe that I now have a closed bite. It just feels like looking at a stranger in the mirror! Two hours have gone by now since the appointment and with each glance in the mirror I feel more and more comfortable with my new smile.

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I also ate for the first time without my braces which felt amazing. My teeth feel so smooth, like jewels! Well, this has been a big day for sure. I’m laying in bed right now getting ready for a nap. When I wake up, I’ll probably have forgotten I’m free of my braces and it’ll be awesome to remember.

This day arrived much sooner than I anticipated. It’s bizarre that at times throughout the process, the seconds went by so slowly. But now looking back, it seems like the months just flew by!

So what now? I still feel some tickling around my mouth area. I saw Dr. Tocchio yesterday and he said this is normal. He said it can actually take up to four years for nerves to completely regenerate. He’s had some patients recover all feeling after three weeks, which is pretty incredible, but most after one year. Occasionally, it can take up to four years. He thinks mine will take one year. I’ll be seeing him again in two months.

In one week, I’ll be picking up my removable retainers from Dr. Cameron’s office. In another month, I’ll be returning to Dr. Cameron’s office to have my final records taken. That’s when I’ll get the after photos of this whole process. I’ll make a post at that point to compare all of the before photos with the after photos.

So until then, I hope this will give you hope for your own journey or courage to go ahead with the surgery if you’re still considering it!

SO WORTH IT!

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Day 186: What Big Teeth You Have

I had my final orthodontic adjustment before my braces are removed next Wednesday. I asked Dr. Cameron if it was normal that my bottom teeth are always showing when I talk and smile. He asked me to smile to show him and he said I should practice smiling without showing so much bottom teeth. Well I got home and took three pictures of my “natural” smile and it’s toothy alright. Here’s some photos of me smiling naturally on the left, and practicing not showing my bottom teeth on the right. They all looked strange to me as I was taking them but when I look at them altogether I think they’re all just fine. Smiling is a beautiful thing, especially after such an ordeal. Just another thing to adjust to!

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Day 185: The Highs and Lows

It’s been six months today since I had double jaw surgery. My braces will be completely removed on September 11th and I can’t wait to post a lengthy update at that point. For now, I thought I’d post a list of the highs and lows of my experience so far.

The Highs

  • Knowing that I had the balls to do this. A lot of people live with pain and discomfort because they’re too scared of the surgery. I can officially say that I’m courageous.
  • Laughing, smiling and eating to my heart’s content without needing to apply heat packs to my cheeks. The happiness-curse is finally lifted.
  • Feeling like my face muscles are finally resting, like my mouth is actually closed, like my jaw muscles are relaxed for the first time.
  • You know the “for better or for worse” part of marriage vows? Check and check.
  • Discovering that I no longer get ear aches when there’s a cool or warm breeze. I never imagined those ear aches were caused by the position of my jaws.
  • Learning to use this amazing utensil that is in my own mouth: my front teeth. Biting into a slice of pizza and the whole piece comes clean off, not just the cheese.
  • Being able to smile without my tongue sticking through my teeth.

The Lows

  • The shuddering of my jaw muscles submitting to my new bone structure on day 2.
  • Looking into the mirror on day 3 and generally the whole of day 3.
  • Being told everything is completely normal when it feels completely not.
  • Contemplating waking my husband to tell him I think I’m dying on day 4.
  • The few days I was depressed and couldn’t get out of bed during week 3.
  • When I started crying and told Dr. Tocchio I’m ugly during week 4.
  • When people think I had this major surgery to straighten my teeth.

You know what, I had to think hard for the lows because my mind is already forgetting the worst parts about this process. I guess it’s a coping mechanism, remembering the good and not the bad. I’d say the very lowest moment was that point when I thought I might be dying from slow suffocation. I wasn’t getting enough air through my teeth (even though my oxygen levels tested normal at the hospital), and it’s like the whole world was sleeping and no one cared that I was perhaps dying. I could have used some anti-anxiety meds in the first week.

That’s all for now and I can’t wait to get these damned braces off next week and seeing what’s underneath all this metal, and eating all sorts of stuff that gets stuck in these brackets!

Day 154: Doritolitus

Here’s a story about my day.

It’s Sunday morning. I wake up and brush my teeth and see a bit of blood, which isn’t unusual after double jaw surgery. Then I look in the mirror and see that I have a little bubble of infection on my gum. F****** great!

doritolitus

I immediately weigh my original plan of sitting by a pool all afternoon sipping cocktails against having my gum-zit poked by a weekend dentist.

An hour later, I’m filling out a form at an emergency dentist at Yonge and Davisville. By some miracle, I got an appointment that very hour and free parking right in front of the building. I decide that my volunteer work has earned some good karma. Aside from the abscessed gum and all.

I fill out a form and they call me in straight away. So far, this is the shortest ordeal of my life. They tell me they need to do an X-ray. I protest that I’ve had so many X-rays since jaw surgery that my very presence could give them cancer. They acquiesce and I sit in the chair. Within a minute I decide that I paid too much for my braces. No coffered ceiling, chandelier or patient-iPad.

The dentist enters and I waste no time diagnosing myself with “Doritolitus” (eating Doritos with such vigour as to cause acute gingival distress.) The dentist wants a closer look. My lips barely curve upwards when he spots the intruder on the incisor. By that point, the abscess (Abby, for short), has completely overcome the tooth.

Dr. Weekend supports my diagnosis of Doritolitus and says there’s no infection, just swelling, but he should scrape around to make sure no crumbs are stuck in there. I watch my reflection in his glasses. Dr. Weekend murders Abby while his hygienist squirts my face with an oversized lapel flower,  at least that’s what it feels like. I leave the chair needing moisturizer and de-tangler.

Back at the front desk I’m half-stunned by the experience and holding a bloody Kleenex and debit card. “That will be $80 please.” That’s the most affordable dental bill I’ve had in a year. I say now that’s a price I can live with!

So the lesson here is that Doritos are dangerous.