Corrective Double Jaw Surgery
A more suitable title for this blog post would be, "Let's see how many horrible pictures I can fit of myself in one spot and then publish on the internet for all to see for eternity." No?! I figured it wasn't too catchy. Nonetheless, It's quite obvious that I'm being uber real and vulnerable by sharing this abundance of God-awful pictures. At first I took the pictures for myself. Because I wanted to remember the journey and also track the progress. However, like most times, I've decided to share them all collectively here to offer a "me too" for anyone going through a similar journey.
I had a handful of others who had been through this surgery before, offer me encouragement and even one friend help me the entire way through with advice and checking in on me (THANKS SO MUCH LAUREN!) and I can not tell you how much that meant to me. This experience is life changing and quite traumatic. Having others who can relate is such a life safer. Now it's my turn to pay it forward. Here's my journey with Corrective Double Jaw Surgery.
I had braces from age 10-15 when I was younger. It was intense. I had oral surgery with four teeth pulled, rubber bands, these sharp brackets that would slice my tongue to keep it from pushing my teeth forward, and headgear. My teeth eventually became straight but I still had an "overbite". My top teeth stuck out significantly where I could bite down and still stick my tongue out through my top and bottom clenched teeth. They did everything they could orthodontically but couldn't fix it with just braces. I was always self conscious about it and refused to let anyone take a picture showing my profile. It was just something I lived with and moved on without thinking much more of it.
Fast Forward to adult hood and I took my 10 year old daughter into her consultation for her own braces. It had been years since I even wore my retainers and my bottom teeth had shifted a little. I casually mentioned getting Invisalign to correct it. The protocol is of course x-rays and a consult so that's what I did. That's when I was told I needed the surgery. Apparently, lots of symptoms that I had (jaw clicking/locking, tension headaches, sore jaw/temples, poor biting ability, etc.) were all due to my jaw placement/size. The surgeon explained that my symptoms would not only continue but worsen as I got older and my muscle was tired from compensating for the poor placement of my jaw. It was noted that it wasn't if I got this corrective jaw surgery but when I would get it. After much more discussion and thinking, we knew the surgery was the only final solution and the sooner the better.
This looks like a mugshot, but it's not. I've actually never been arrested (shocker?!)... came close to juvenile detention center that one time but let's not talk about it. ;) This is my "before" picture taken at 4 AM the morning of my surgery. I am not a morning person, especially without coffee. Apparently, neither is my face.
Surgery prep was a little nerve racking. I had to wipe down my entire body with sterilizing wipes and get all connected to IVs alone in the surgery prep area. I then had to take a few medications and get some injections through my IV. This may be TMI but it was something I wasn't expecting. The nurse warned me before injecting the fluid into my IV that this specific medicine sometimes hurts your lady parts. Having birthed three children... the last one weighing-in just under 11 lbs. I chuckled at the caution. I then imitated the King of Pop himself as I grabbed my lady pits with two hands to try to help alleviate the strongest, most intense stinging/burning sensation I've ever felt. Just imagine how your mouth feels if you chew on 10 jalapeños at one time. Exactly. Not something I expected to endure when getting my mouth operated on. Not sure if guys get the same kick to their junk or if this is just another one of the many pains ladies are lucky enough to have happen to just us, but consider yourself warned. I was able to give my hubby a quick goodbye kiss and was already feeling somewhat loopy as they wheeled me off to the operating room.
I had braces for 11 months before my surgery. There are very specific steps that the surgeon and orthodontist will coordinate and have you follow. It's annoying because it will feel like forever. And each appointment is scheduled WAY in advance for the surgeon side but only last minute on the orthodontist side. This is due to it all depending on your teeth's movement and waiting on your body to do it's work. If one thing doesn't coordinate with the other and things have to be adjusted, it is crazy town. My first option for surgery was two days before Christmas. Not happening. Once your mouth is ready, you acquire surgery hooks connected to your braces. They suck a little. Try not to get them until a few days before your surgery if you're able. Otherwise your special diet will start early because it will hurt to move your mouth around and chew once they're in.
My bottom jaw was broken once on each side. My jaw was rotated upwards and cadaver bone was inserted and is held in place with screws. One side has the standard 3 screws and the other 5. The surgeon explained that my left side did not have a clean break like it was supposed to and instead something that happens only 10% of the time happened (lucky me) and it was a messier break in separate places. That side is held together by 5 screws. My upper jaw was broken in two spots vertically and one horizontal break across/behind my nose and rotated in and lifted upwards/shortened. There are too many screws here for me to count. The surgery was a success and I don't remember much of my time in the recovery room. By the Way... my surgeon was Dr. Brent Golden with Arnold Palmer Hospital. I give him a 10 out of 10. He and his nurse were a dream. He was always patient and attentive while also being honest and realistic. He was always available for a phone call. Scheduling the surgery was tricky and actually happened two months later than I had expected due to the packed surgery schedule. This made me flip a lid, but hindsight shows me it was worth it.
The part that everyone wants to know about. The part I lost sleep about the most leading up to the big day. The part that probably stops most people from going through with the procedure: RECOVERY. Being a mom, I really wanted to know what to expect. Life goes on when you have a household of 5 people and 3 pets whether your face is broken or not. I looked all over the internet and asked my surgeon at every visit exactly what to expect. I found the same annoying answer everywhere I turned. Everyone's experience is different. Well that doesn't help me plan child care and help and meals and long term schedules. But it is absolutely true. I didn't have the exact story as anyone else I had read about or questioned prior to surgery. That's the biggest piece of advice I have for anyone researching this. You will have some of the symptoms but not ALL of the symptoms. You may experience some of the setbacks or you may not. In my case I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.
The stay in the hospital was okay. I had to stay one night and asked to go home the next morning. I prefer to suffer in the comfort of my own home. The worst part about the initial 24 hour recovery in the hospital was vomiting blood. I lost quite a bit during surgery and despite their best efforts, a large amount got into my stomach. I puked on two different occasions. Puking with your mouth banded shut is possible, in case you are wondering. It is uncomfortable but not painful. At this point, you're heavily medicated and numb from the neck up. The idea of looking like the Carrie movie is much more traumatizing than the actual act. But still, throwing up your own blood ain't a tea party. The morning after my surgery (so about 24 hours) I was up and showering and changed and ready to leave. I was also talking. Granted it was very muffled and very awkward, but it obviously takes a lot more than two broken jaws to shut me up. My husband was thrilled. ;)
After surgery they place a splint in your mouth. A stint is a plastic mold that they take sort of like when they do the impressions before placing on your braces. This retainer type mouth piece is attached to your braces and not able to come out. It is pretty cumbersome in your mouth and feels exactly like you'd think wearing a mouth piece in 24/7 feels like. It's not too much of a pain. The grossest thing is the food (chunks or saliva even) that gets caught in the roof of your mouth and this thing. It spent SO LONG cleaning this thing out. I could not stand the slimy feeling. It might not bother others but I hated it. This splint forces your bite into the "perfect" position that they measure and calculated during surgery. I had mine in for 3 weeks. It did cause some stress on one side of my jaw because it is a really tight and exact fit to get your teeth to bite down in there. I never felt "comfortable" in the impressions that were set in the plastic so I was relieved when it came over for several reasons.
(Just to explain this horrific picture). There were stitches all along where my top lip met my jaw and again on the sides where both my cheeks met gums/jaw. The stitches in my top lip did tear because of a hissy fit I threw which led to lots and lots of aggressive talking. They also placed a stitch in each one of my cheeks about an inch in front of my ear where they needed to put the screw driver through my cheek to place the screws. Yup. A literal tool through my cheek. I do not even notice the marks and I had those removed at my first check up.
The first week is the hardest. Make it through 7 days. That was my goal. I couldn't sleep much. It didn't hurt in a sharp pain sort of way but more in just a overall hit by a truck sort of way. I kept up with cleaning out my nose with q-tips and nasal spray and squirting water and mouth wash all over inside my mouth. This helps SUBSTANTIALLY in recovery. Same with showering, getting up, and eating. I weened off the narcotics after 5 days because I have an irrational fear of becoming addicted to them and ending up on "intervention". Not to mention (WARNING TMI) narcotics constipate you. Once your home from the hospital and your mind is off the actual surgery you'll start to realize other things hurt pretty bad too. Like your stomach. That pain alone encouraged me to stop the pain meds just to uhhh.. get back my system back to normal.
After that I just rotated Tylenol and Motrin for the second week. My skin got SUPER oily and broke out in a rash of tiny bumps all over my face. It was somewhat itchy but more so just bothersome. If you can't tell by now, you're not going to enter a beauty pageant during these first few months of recovery. Between the swelling and the blisters on the side of my mouth and the constant drool and the bumpy greasy face... I was quite a sight.
I'd say attitude helps you recuperate much faster than if you succumb to every ache and pain. I certainly had moments of despair. (Emotions hit HARD about 5 days after surgery). Like when I couldn't get my nose to stop bleeding at a restaurant (where I was not eating because of liquid diet, but more so just joining my family for company) and had my husband call the surgeon after 6 hours of pretty constant blood loss. Apparently, thats normal. You are not bleeding to death slowly. Good to know. Side Note: if you have to sneeze. DO NOT hold it in. The amount of blood clots that shoot out of your nose will seriously almost make you pass out.
Week three was the hardest for me I believe. I was taking nothing at all regularly for pain. The swelling was still pretty large and I was just uncomfortable. I'd say I needed constant help the first week and so/so by the second but by this time, everyone around you is pretty much over your recovery. Empathy only lasts so long. When you go from people depending on you to you depending on so many people... it can become exhausting for everyone involved. The person MOST over it and ready to return to normal, will be you. I wanted to be at my old pace and do all the things I used to do. This was the week I returned to "normal routine" as far as the kids being home and doing school drop off/pick up and activities. Most nights I could cook and clean and do laundry. Everything was done at a much slower rate and during the smalls bursts of energy I had. At this point the pain was just more of a dull constant ache. My face was still numb but what I could feel is like when you bite ice cream with your front teeth. In all my teeth. My lips looked normal but felt like right after you get dental work down and they're huge. Big hurdles in recovery slow down about this time and I am not patient. That was very hard to cope with.
I'm currently 10 weeks out from surgery. I was approved to eat solids again at 6 weeks. Yes I lost 10 lbs. and I've already found most of it again. Every woman I told about my surgery and mouth being banded shut thought I was so lucky to lose weight. PSA: This is a horrible diet, just eat salad.
I still cannot chew rough things. I've yet to rib into corn on the cob, an apple, steak, and some breads. My mouth gets sore and tired half way through a handful of meals a week. My bottom jaw is still numb along with my chin and lower lip. I have extreme sensitivity on my bottom front teeth and gums. It feels like they all need a root canal. I've been told that seems like a good sign that nerves are regenerating after being manipulated so much during surgery. I can finally open my mouth wide enough to fit three fingers in vertically. That is progress from the 1 finger I was able to squeeze in for the first several weeks. Slowly it feels as if my energy is returning to me after Ive had several weeks on Iron supplements and Complex B vitamins.
If I had to do it all again, I would still elect to have the surgery. I know the results medically and cosmetically will continue to get even better as time passes. I can already feel the tension gone in my neck and jaw and having my molars touch in the back something I've never had before. It's marvelous. I am so happy I did this for myself and my health. I left out a ton I'm sure. If you have ANY questions feel free to message me through my contact page or leave a comment.