Saturday, November 8, 2014

Updates - 5 years post-op

I've gotten an influx of emails with questions and concerns lately, and I thought I'd give another update.  It's been 5 and a half years since I had jaw surgery.

Aesthetics: I love my face now.  I spent a lot of time after jaw surgery hating how I looked - but dont worry, 't just took time to adjust.  A lot of time getting used to seeing something different in the mirror.  Pre-braces and jaw surgery, I didn't smile much because my teeth were so terrible.  Now, I smile all the time and get compliments on how nice my smile is.

Numbness: It hasn't improved at all since my last post - it's exactly the same.  It still doesn't bother me in the least.  Funny things: I can't feel food if it's on one of the really numb spots on my chin... and since most of the people I hang out with don't remember I had jaw surgery - they don't realize I can't feel the food.  Also, if you run your finger lightly down my chin I instantly drool.  My husband thinks that's hilarious.  I'm not so sure.

Retainers: 4+ years since getting my braces off I can go a few days sans retainers without my teeth instantly going crooked.  I sleep in my splint about once every 3 weeks - only when I have a bad jaw pain day.

Jaw Pain: It's better than it was pre-jaw surgery, but I do have jaw pain a few times a week.  It's the worst on days where I play a lot of clarinet or eat a lot of chewy or crunchy foods.  It's not bad.

Jaw mobility: I've struggled with jaw mobility post-surgery.  I still have almost no side-to-side or front-to-back motion.  When I do accidentally try to force my jaw outside of it's normal trajectory, it's really painful and shocking - mind-numbingly, stomach nauseating painful.    BUT!  My jaw opening is pretty much back to normal - as you can see in the last photo.

I'm really glad I had jaw surgery.  I love my smile, I love not having migraines every day, I love not having massive amounts of jaw pain.  The lack of mobility and numbness are not really bothersome.

So, to conclude - here are some photos of my smile over the last few years.  Quite a difference!  If I can be of any help - email me at sheppard[dot]stephanie[at]gmail[dot]com.  I don't read comments on entries, because they're mostly spam bots.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Most of the questions I get lately have to do with numbness, my face, and retainers. So, here's the lowdown.

Numbness: Now, don't be scared by this answer. I know there are MANY bloggers out there who are freaked out by numbness and end up getting more surgeries to help with the numbness and all of that. I'm not one of them. I am still [and likely always will be] fairly numb. Here's a map in paint, I tried to type on the picture but it was being too annoying so I'll explain it here.

The white circles (on the sides of my top lip) have probably 80-90% feeling. I don't notice that these are numb unless I pull on them or tweak them.

The Yellow circles down the sides of my bottom lips are a bit stronger. This is the only section of numbness that I can feel on a day-to-day basis (it feels a little tingly every once in a while, but mostly just stiff). I have probably 40% feeling there.

The blue circles are the sides of my chin. I probably have 60% feeling there - and I don't notice it at all (however, every once in a while a sneaky piece of food lands there and I don't notice, hahahah).

The red circle on the point of my chin is almost completely numb. If I poke into it hard with my nail, I feel something. I was warned that with the genioplasty I'd likely lose most feeling there, and they were correct. It doesn't bother me at all, except, like above, every once in a while a sneaky piece of food lands there and hilarity breaks loose. Always a good story.

Now... retainers. I was wearing my splint every night up until about 3 months ago. I find that after wearing it for more than 2 nights I un-bite from it and only keep my mouth halfway in. I was seeing my top tooth get a little crooked and I freaked out, so I started wearing my invisalign-type retainers every other night. I love having nights I don't sleep in the splint, and I don't get headaches in the least. Now, sometimes my jaw for whatever reason is sore (too many mike and ikes, stressful day, whatever) and then I'll wear the splint more often. I can go about 2 nights straight in the invisilign before my jaw starts to feel it in the morning.

I was supposed to, at this point a year and a half out, be able to wear my retainer every other night - but every night my teeth sting a bit getting into the retainer. I'm too afraid to leave it out for a night, and that's fine with me. Apparently my teeth have stronger memories than most. I do need to see the orthodontist soon to ask about that.

Well... those are my updates. Life is good - I realized the other day that FINALLY, over 2 years out of jaw surgery, I would do it again if I had to. I am so glad I did it.

Finally, my face. I love my face now. I love my nose, I love my face, I love everything about it. I look at old pictures and can't EVEN remember why I would have liked that face over this one... but, I did. It took a long, long time. Now when I look in the mirror this face is what I'm used to seeing - and it's awesome!


I finally got up the gumption to get in for a cleaning. Surprisingly, after a year and a half things looked pretty good. She wants me to focus on cleaning heavily around my built-in retainer along the bottom, but everything else is fine.

They have to do a crown on one of my teeth in February. I was so hopped up on the anti-anxiety medications I'm not clear on why or what other work they're doing (for 1,400 dollars... oye bye savings!), so I'm going to call in January to clarify (the offices are pretty much closed until the 3rd).

The anti-anxiety medications they gave me REALLY helped. I wasn't nervous at all, but I also don't remember anything at all... including the errands that my friend [who was driving me around] did, the lunch we went out to, the 5 hour nap I took when I finally got home... yikes. I do remember accidentally scaring my technician, who's having lower jaw surgery soon. I'm not sure what I said, but she said she was more nervous than before. Oops!

They're giving me something a little stronger for the next appointment, because they need me to be slightly sedated for the crown work.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

orthodontist appointment

It turns out, I missed my last orthodontist appointment! I was supposed to go in sometime in May for a splint and bite and teeth alignment check - totally slipped my mind. I will call next week to get in.

In other news, I need my teeth cleaned/checked out by a dentist soon. I'm still having residual teeth pain on my left side and it's gone on long enough now that I'm not sure it IS nerve damage, maybe it's a cavity or something? My teeth still feel very funny - sometimes they vibrate, sometimes they hurt suddenly and then stop, sometimes I can't really feel them when I chew (feels like chewing on wood).

The problem? Not insurance, as I'm lucky enough to have good dental insurance. It's dumb fear. I am so completely and totally afraid of the dentist that every time I pull their phone number up in speed dial I can't breathe. I'm not exactly sure what to do... I might just bite the bullet (ahaha!) and call and ask them what they think. Maybe they can knock me out for my cleaning? All I know is, it's been 15 months since I've had a cleaning, and that's just not okay.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

clarinet playing

In the year and a half after surgery, playing the clarinet still hurt my jaw. If I'd play for a few hours or more - or many days during a week, I would get a lot of tightness and pain and headaches. I had to watch what I chewed at meals on days I knew I would be playing a lot.

Finally - edging on 2 years post-op, I can play with no restrictions. I'm in two pit orchestras right now and last week played 3+ hours a day PLUS what I do in my band classes and no jaw pain to speak of. Finally! Such good news, as clarinet is such a huge part of my life that I've had to essentially give up (or suffer through) over the past 4 years.

I'm back! And, my tone and intonation has improved and my high range playing (altissimo from high c to double high c, for you clarinet players) is GREATLY more in tune and much more reliable than before.

The good news just keeps on rolling...

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I've received something like 4 emails in the past few months about x-rays, and so I'm getting off my lazy butt and uploading them. Here they are! Enjoy, and I hope you're doing well out there! Email me or facebook message me with questions if you have them, or leave a comment.

Before braces at my initial exam appointment: (If you notice, my overbite was NOT apparent at this first inital appointment - my teeth were so severely crowded that it didn't look like I had an overbite - weird, huh?)

During braces, right before jaw surgery:

After jaw surgery and braces removed:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

splint: final take

I love my splint. It took months to be comfortable in it, and it still has problems, but it has changed my life dramatically. I have almost no jaw pain now. My range of motion is completely normal (no, not what it used to be, but completely normal).

I've been jealous for a year that so many people "forget" they had jaw surgery and move on with their lives - my painful jaw, small range of motion, constantly shifting bite, slight headaches and sore teeth were a constant reminder of the surgery I had in July of '09.

Now, there are days and days that I don't even think about the fact that I had jaw surgery. I can yawn without any pain (in fact, it feels good!), I can bite into anything I want to (though I still don't bite into anything hard, just force of habit), I wake up and my jaw is in the right place and stays there - little to no shifting. I can move my lower jaw side to side and forward/back (not as much as before, but enough to shift food around in my mouth and I don't notice the difference). I can play the clarinet for a good amount of time before I feel pressure in my joints (although, that's always been there). My flute playing is improving. I've had a total of around 5 migraines in 19 months.

I've been struggling on and off with a cold the past week or so, which makes wearing the splint difficult (since my splint is my retainer connected together, I usually need to breathe through my nose - it's difficult to breathe through my mouth) - at one point last week I spit it out in my sleep for the first time in a long time. I woke up with a dull headache and achy jaw! I even wear it when I take naps, not because I have to but because it makes it so much more comfortable.

I love my splint. It's a wee bit smelly and hard to take care of, but it's amazing. Love it, love it, LOVE it.

So finally... 19 months post surgery, I consider myself back to normal in range of motion, pain, and jaw mobility. My chin and face are still a bit numb, but it doesn't bother me in the least. I'm very pleased with my results - and very glad I went through all of that awful-ness that was jaw surgery and recovery.

Monday, December 13, 2010

range of motion and numbness changing

I have good news! In the past week I've noticed my range of motion improving greatly. I can fit 3 fingers in now - and fairly easily, though no room to spare. I haven't been doing any exercises or stretching, just living life normally - how awesome is that?

Another thing is that my numbness has been changing - I'm not sure if it's getting better yet but it's definitely starting that waxy-bugs-me-when-my-coat-brushes-against-it feeling again. Usually it results in a little more feeling. However, the numbness doesn't bug me at all - in fact, when I'm bored in meetings it's fun to play with "Hey! I can feel that... wait, nope... Hey!... nope"

Hope you are all well out there in ortho-blogging land!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

orthodontist appointment

I had my first splint check-up appointment at Dr. Molen's office. He really likes how everything is looking. He shaved a few teeth, working on getting my bite to lock into place - because I had two teeth removed on the bottom he says the teeth don't line up perfectly - but that it was completely necessary to remove them for my jaw health.

Another piece of interesting information - the splint isn't for retaining my bite. He says he's not worried about the bite retaining itself or relapsing. The splint is to relieve pressure in my TMJs to stop the pain I've been having. Sure enough, it's worked! I have very little to no jaw pain anymore, and my range of motion has even improved to 2 and a half fingers!

I'm going back in May for another checkup... maybe that will be my last one?

Monday, October 25, 2010

splint: take three

I was supposed to have an orthodontist appointment today, but I am far too sick to venture out to Auburn so I postponed it a few weeks. I am ready to see him, as I'm still a bit concerned about my bite.

My jaw hurts much less - I have very few spasms of pain anymore like I was having. It still hurts to open wide (and I'm still at just barely over 2 fingers) and if I play the clarinet for longer than an hour or two it gets pretty sore. The worry is that my bite rarely lines up. I'm often bumping front teeth and I can't pull my lower jaw back without TERRIBLE pain. The bite wanders around all the time, though - it's very inconsistent.

Attached are pictures I took this evening of the splint and it in - keep in mind that I'm super-duper sick and look a bit freaky. Ah, well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

splint: take two

The splint is improving. I played clarinet for a long while today (after taking the summer off hoping to help with jaw pain) and my jaw was quite sore and my head was throbbing - the instant I put the splint in at home my headache lessened.

I still don't like sleeping in it, but I don't wake up on the hour anymore. I do wake up more often because I feel like I'm choking - I'm still a mouth-breather about half the time and I've got wicked allergies right now - but I am able to go right back to sleep. I don't spit it out anymore, and my teeth don't ache when I wear it.

Until tonight, I haven't noticed a large difference in my jaw pain. Tonight I'm feeling quite a bit better with it in. My bite is very confused in the morning, but seems to settle an hour or so after I take it out. When I first remove it my front teeth bump like mad, but by breakfast I have a normal bite again - and the overbite hasn't made an appearance since the first few days with it in. My ROM is still the same - two fingers with some slight wiggle room.

I'm still not overly enthused about it - I'm not sure it's doing all the good it was supposed to. It's also giant and looks quite humorous in - I look like a linebacker. I'll post a picture as soon as I remember.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

splint: first impression

I hate the splint. I absolutely can NOT stand it. I feel like I'm suffocating with it in, because it forces my jaw closed at night. It's huge - I look like a football player. It's my retainer as well, now, and my teeth HURT like crazy - it's weird. Most likely because I'm trying to work my way out of the splint at night and it's hard to get my teeth in and out. I have to wear my clear retainers during the day for a few hours because I'm not getting my 8 hours in due to spitting it out so often (which is really difficult to remove, I'm not sure how I'm getting out of it!)

My lower jaw is pulled quite a bit forward to get it in the splint - so when I take it out my jaw is confused about where to sit. This morning my front teeth were bumping like mad, during lunch today I saw a legitimate large overbite, which scares the crap out of me.

I have a headache, I'm exhausted from waking up every hour or so either suffocating, searching for it because I've managed to spit it out, or from my teeth and jaw hurting.

I'm going to give it the 10 days he asked - it's a new thing, and my jaw doesn't like new things. I want this to work - I want the rest of my jaw pain to go away and I want my range of motion to improve and I want to eat normally - but this sucks.

Boo. I had high hopes for this splint.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

splint and new retainers!

I got two sets of molds taken at the orthodontist today - one for a Damon Splint, which will work like a retainer and a splint at the same time, hoping to relax my jaw at night (or whenever I need it) and get rid of the last of this jaw pain. I get that on August 23rd. The other molds were for new clear plastic retainers since I have the new tooth. They're so nice and clear and shiny!

I truly hope that's the last set of molds I ever have to take. Ugh, they gross me out. I'm also ready to be done visiting my orthodontist... as much as I adore him and his entire staff, I'm ready to move on with my life.


I get a few questions quite often, so I decided to link some of my more "eventful" entries down the side of my page, but also wanted to answer a few questions here. If you have more, I'm happy to answer them.

What kind of surgery did you have? I had upper and lower jaw surgery plus surgery to extend my chin (genioplasty). My upper jaw was shortened, moved forward, and leveled out. My lower jaw was moved forwards. I also had a bone graft from my right hip to reinforce my upper jaw.

How long did it take you to recover? I still feel like I'm recovering a bit over a year out of surgery, but for the most part I was feeling much better after 6 weeks. I went back to work at my part-time job, Starbucks, at 5 weeks and while it was fine, I was really tired. If I worked an office job or any job with less talking/standing/moving, it would have been easier. I started teaching full time around 8 weeks after surgery, and that was also a bit difficult in regards to getting enough food and having enough energy.

Were you numb after surgery? Do you still have any lasting numbness? Yep. I was completely numb after surgery (Pretty much no feeling from my eyeballs downward, except for a few patches). Over the past year, much of the feeling has returned, but I am left with numbness in my chin, upper lip, and some areas of my teeth and gums. None of it bothers me, except for when the nerves work overtime in my chin - then it kind of itches and drives me nuts - but that means it's healing!

How did you get your insurance to pay for surgery? If you look back from September 2009 to May 2010, you'll find all of my insurance trouble. My insurance company had a orthognathic surgery exclusion - no matter what, medically necessary or not, they would not cover the surgery. I was lucky enough to be able to appeal to my school district with letters from my surgeon, orthodontist, and myself, plus my migraine diary and ER reports, plus X-rays and diagnosis from my surgeon. They ended up paying for it in full.

Are you happy with your results? Overall, yes. Prior to surgery I was suffering from almost daily migraines, constant headaches, and terrible jaw pain. Since July 1, 2009 I've had 2 migraine headaches - 1 just days after surgery from a major muscle spasm, the other just a few months ago. Both went away with medication and sleep, rather than hanging on for weeks at a time.

I still struggle with some aspects of my jaw - for instance, my range of motion/ jaw opening is now stuck at 40mm - when prior to surgery it was almost 60mm. It is very difficult and painful for me to hold my jaw open for long periods of time (think dentist or orthodontist). I can't eat a lot of very hard or sticky foods. I am pretty much unable to move my jaw from side to side or forward/backwards - which may or may not improve.

Looks wise, I am also happy with my results. It's taken a long time to get used to my new face - and while I still look like "me" I'm quite different. By shortening my midface around 10mm everything from the position of my ears to my nose to my cheekbones and eye sockets changed. It's pretty drastic. It took months and months for me to get used to the new face, but now I love it.

What kind of braces did you have? How long were you in braces? I was in braced in Damon (self-litigating) braces for around 2.5 years. This time, anyway. When I was younger, I had conventional braces and headgear twice, trying to correct my overbite and crowded teeth.

How are you retained? I have clear plastic retainers that look like Invisalign. In a few weeks I'll be getting a Damon Splint to help relax my jaw and hold my teeth at the same time.

Did you use Zip 'n' Squeeze bags or the Cool Jaw Wrap? No, I didn't use the ZnS bags or their wrap - I was fortunate enough to order from them when they were still a functioning company, but I despised the ZnS bags - I ordered around 20 and only used 1 (but they have already been given to another lucky jaw surgery patient months ago). I was much happier with toddler sippy cups and the large gauge syringes from my surgeon. As for the jaw bra, I bought a jaw hot and cold wrap but the hospital ones were much more effective - and they gave me 3 or 4.

Were you banded or wired shut? I was banded shut for the first week, and then could take off the bands for a few hours a day to eat and brush. I was then on a mush diet for the next 7 weeks - anything I could swallow whole or mush with my tongue was fair game.

What did you eat? You'd be surprised what you can eat despite not being able to chew. The first week, being banded shut, I was stuck with broth-based or cream-based soups with no chunks, juices, muscle milk, Isopure (fruit flavored, clear protein drink - great for the first few no-particle days), and Gatorade. After that first week, almost anything is possible with a blender and some sort of liquid - chicken broth, milk, or juice. If you crave it, go for it! :) I went for pizza at one point, and it was pretty awesome. Everything does look a little like cat food, though...

You're a musician. How did this process get in the way of playing wind instruments? I'm a clarinet player. Braces alone were pretty wretched for clarinet playing - I had to re-learn to play as my teeth moved and straightened. Once jaw surgery happened, I was unable to play any wind or high string instrument for 3 months - and this was pushing it, per my surgeon. If I didn't teach beginning band and orchestra I think she would have had me wait longer. My embouchure was radically changed, and I had to re-learn to play. Everything from the angle of my horn to how my corners sealed to how my tongue is placed in my mouth changed - and it was pretty difficult and frustrating. I ended up taking a few lessons which really helped me. Now, a year later, I play more in tune with a better sound and have a better range - so it's worth it in the end.

What was the bone graft like? I think the bone graft was the worst part of the surgery. It made walking really difficult, made wearing stiff pants difficult, made showering difficult... pretty much awful. It was far more painful than my jaw, possibly because of the cut nerves.

How long did you have to wait to exercise after surgery? Because I had a bone graft out of my hip, I had to wait a few months to start running again. I was supposed to be walking right out of surgery (the next day), and was encouraged to exercise/walk as I saw fit, as long as I wasn't in pain or overdoing it. I also had weight-lifting restrictions for the first 6 weeks.

Did you have problems breathing after surgery? Yep, had breathing problems. My swelling was pretty darn intense which closed one of my nostrils and my nose was clogged from the, well, blood and stuff. Things that helped: Steamy showers (I just sat in the bathroom with the doors closed and heat on since showering was difficult after the bone graft). Humidifier - heck yes, get one. When it was off, I was much more congested. Q-tips soaked in hydrogen peroxide: Gross, but very helpful in removing debris. Afrin: Now, it says only to take it every 12 hours or something, but right about the 9 hour mark I would start getting panicky and suffocated. If I were going through this again, I would ask my surgeon if I could use it a little more often. Saline spray: This helped clear some of the gunk out. Overall, if I just concentrated on breathing "breathe in... breathe out..." I realized I was getting enough air. No fun, though - especially at night. This only lasted from around day 2-5.

Did you get sick after surgery? No! I was very concerned about this, and talked about it with my surgeon and anesthesiologist. They gave me lots of anti-nausea drugs and they all worked!

How bad was the swelling? Did it last very long? Oof, swelling. My swelling peaked at day 5 (you should check it out: it's FAN.TAS.TIC). The swelling was mostly gone - i.e I could go in public with no funny looks at all - after a month. I was still swollen in my mind, and people that knew me well could tell I was swollen, but it looked normal to everyone else. By the 2 month mark I was almost completely back to normal, despite obsessing over it for a lot longer than those 2 months.

How did you exercise your jaw post-surgery? Now, make sure to ask your jaw surgeon prior to trying any of these... but I used Popsicle sticks (the big ones... tongue depressors?) for one exercise - fitting as many as I could in my jaw, and holding it for 30-60 seconds at a time. I also had to push my lower jaw using my hands from side to side. I also used a squash ball - think a ping-pong ball but squishy - and squished it down, put it between my back teeth, and let it expand.

How bad is jaw surgery (really)? Truthfully, looking back and reading my entries I know it was terrible. But a year later, I don't remember much about it - in fact, the whole month of July 2009 is a bit hazy (probably all the Demerol and lack of a sleeping schedule). I'm really glad I did it. So, know that a year after surgery you'll think it "wasn't THAT bad." *Smile*

Those are all the questions I can think of getting the most often... If you have more questions you can email me at stephanierae2804 at yahoo OR you can message me on facebook (use the link on the sidebar) OR you can leave it any comments and I'll get back to you.

Monday, August 2, 2010

crown, part 2

I got the crown placed today at the dentist. For once, the appointment went as planned and it only took around 20 minutes. The worst part was taking off the temporary crown, I had a few tears running down my cheeks. Once it was off the gum tissue around the crown was intensely tender and still is a few hours later.

My top retainers no longer fit so I went into my orthodontist's office (luckily right down the street). Since I have an appointment on Thursday morning for the impressions for my splint, they decided to just trim the back tooth off of my retainer, assuring me it wouldn't move in a few days. I sure hope not.

It's really odd to have a tooth back there! I got the root canal 8 months ago, and have just had a little post since. Feels nice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

dentist: crown, part 1

I'm fairly surprised I don't have an all-encompassing fear of the dentist by now. It seems every time I go something goes wrong and I'm stuck with my poor, inept jaw open for long periods of time, resulting in lots of pain.

Yesterday was no surprise - I went in to have two fillings replaced, as they were placed by a terrible dentist in my teens and were showing signs of infection underneath. Those went fairly painlessly - and now they're tooth-colored fillings, instead of shiny silver! Hooray! And all of that work took less than an hour - right on track (my dental assistant is an amazing woman who knows exactly how to treat my idiotic jaw).

Then... the crown prep. I was under the impression (excuse the pun) that it was only an impression - and I would come back in two weeks for the fitting. My dentist is placing a crown on the tooth that had to have a root canal shortly after jaw surgery - my very most rear tooth in the back upper right, of course the most difficult tooth to work on with limited jaw opening.

I'm not exactly sure what went 'wrong' - something wasn't done during or after the root canal, possibly because I was in such incredible pain and it was taking too long? Whatever the case, Dr. Nuttall dug around and took off the silver and shaped and smoothed and cut a bunch of gum tissue and... 2 hours later it was over. He was quite proud of whatever it was he accomplished in there, but I was seeing spots from pain.

The good thing that came from all of this? Dr. Nuttal, being the amazing dentist he is, took time to let my jaw rest during the treatment. He tried to cold-spray my jaw, which doesn't really help me. He then started a full neck massage - which, lo and behold, really helped! After 20 minutes of massage, I felt like I could open my jaw further and it hurt much less! Could it be possible that some of my ROM problems are stemming from muscular problems in my neck? I think I'll go to my acupuncturist to find out. I'm still really interested in a physiotherapist, as well, but am not sure how to find one.

The bad thing, of course, is insane jaw pain and a tooth-ache/gum-ache/face-ache that rivals post-jaw surgery. But without all of the cool painkillers.

Much love to all the recently post-surgery folks. It'll get better - I promise!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


It's my one year anniversary today. I thought I'd start by talking about de-banding, since it was almost a few months ago and I don't want to forget. It was a lot more painful than I thought it would be - taking the brackets off of the front teeth was fairly excruciating, although only for a few seconds while they yanked the bracket off. My jaw was in severe pain since it still doesn't like to be open for very long. The first thing they did was take off the braces - wires and all! Handy, because I kept the braces to make a Christmas ornament out of (bwahaha).

Once the braces were all off they let me take a break and then started the sanding process. That took a long time, and the techs did most of it but then Dr. Rick did the final touches - they also added something to one of my teeth, because it had a chip in it - so it would look full.

From there they glued on my bottom and top built-in retainers and then took me straight to molds (yuck). By then no one was in the office and it was time for lunch, but I had to come back for my final pictures and retainer fitting that afternoon. I did, and everything looked fine.
Now... onto the fun part - my anniversary! Here's my long-winded update.
  • Numbness: My chin is still quite numb. I find that there are weeks (like right now) that it drives me NUTS - it tingles, it tickles, it twitches, it feels like I have two inches of dried wax sitting on it... but normally after this goes away I find I have less numbness. The numbness does not bother me at all, at least when my chin isn't throwing a fit. The numbness covers my entire chin to some degree, and it extends into the sides of my mouth up into my upper lip and my front cheeks. Nowhere is completely numb, but I don't have 100% feeling back anywhere. Again, it doesn't bother me - some people I've read have been annoyed to no end about this, but unless I'm poking around with my fingernail or running my fingers lightly over my face I can't even tell.
  • Jaw pain: Since my upper retainer was taken out I've had big improvements in my jaw pain. I still am unable to chew very chewy or hard things without some pain, but I can chew gum for hours now with no problem (when my jaw starts getting tired I stop).
  • Jaw opening: I have good and bad days. Good days I can bite into almost anything (except tall burgers or sandwiches), bad days I have trouble with bananas. In regards of ROM, I would really recommend talking to your surgeon about their expectations - I thought I would get back to my pre-surgery opening while she figured I would get to about where I am now.
  • Swelling: I don't know if it's because I'm hyper-aware of my face since surgery, but I still have swollen days - especially after I've slept on my stomach for the night.
  • Appearance: I think I'm finally becoming used to my new face. I'm not totally hooked all parts of the face - my nose, for instance - but more often now I'm surprised in pictures by how I USED to look, rather than in the mirror when I wake up in the morning or wash my hands in a bathroom. It's still unnerving, though. It was much harder to get used to than I thought it would be - while I'm sure all of you just think "What an improvement!" I hated much of the new face for a long time. It didn't look like "me" - even if "me" involved a terribly gummy smile and long, long face.

Now - for the official comparison pictures! I wish I had the ones from my jaw surgeon (if they'll email me them I'll post them). First, the big one - profile pictures.

Teeth pictures courtesy of my orthodontist office before, during, after

Smile comparison:

And that's it! Official photos. The first ones were taken in November of 2007 just as I started this blog. The middle photos were all taken a week before surgery last year, and the final ones were taken when I was de-braced on April 28th.

Pretty amazing differences, eh? The most shocking, of course, are my profile pictures. If you look carefully, even my eye sockets look different. I now have more prominent cheekbones and a line where my jaw bone sits. My nose changed, but I'm finally almost used to that. My front-smile photos are odd, too - my face is a completely, completely different shape now - not only is my smile twice as wide, but my face is rounder and considerably shorter (10mm, I believe?). You can see when I smile that my top lip is a little droopy on one side - that's where a lot of my numbness resides. I'm hoping at as that comes back, it'll improve.

And that's it! I'll still be around and updating occasionally. I'm getting the top of my crown fitted after I'm home from a long, meandering vacation, and then I'm getting new molds taken and a splint made - hoping to get rid of the last pesky jaw pain.

Good luck, to everyone just starting this process. It's long, it's rough, and sometimes in the middle it feels pretty terrible, but I'm glad I went through with it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

surgeon update

Saw Dr. Lee today and we had a nice visit. She says my bite is fine (actually, she said it looks amazing and awesome). She reminded me about the jaw angle thing - that I'm at a HUGE risk for TMJ problems, along with the relapse thing. She'd like me to talk to Dr. Molen about getting a splint for at night - something that will keep my teeth apart and therefore relax my jaw a little bit. She says that the worst/hardest position for my jaw is clenched, so I need to make sure to watch that - and make sure I'm not clenching or grinding at night (I don't think I am, but since my husband is out of the state for a year I have no idea! I'll ask him when I go down to visit next month).

My favorite tech was the one to take the final pictures today and she didn't even recognize me/ realize it was me until she brought up the before pictures. She started crying - no joke - when we compared the pictures, especially the profile. I had (have) AMAZING results. I got a copy of my profile comparison (and then accidently folded it up without thinking) but will scan that in and show you guys soon.

So... She's bummed but not concerned about my jaw pain, and I'm now opening to 40mm which she says is fine. She'd like it a bit bigger but she expected me to lose ROM because of my unhealthy joints. I don't have to do physical therapy exercises - I should just eat and yawn and do everything normally (and not avoid chewing because that will make it worse), and it should continue to improve a little. I can heat and ice to get rid of some pain. I'm supposed to avoid very chewy and tough things, as they'll aggravate my jaw pain.

She doesn't want to do the injections in my jaw, but if the pain becomes unbearable (what IS unbearable, though) or if it's still around in a year, I'm supposed to give her a call... but I can call whenever I'd like, of course.

The best part about the appointment, other than hearing that my bite was okay? Seeing post-op jaw surgery patients and people getting their molds and stuff done. Had a nice conversation with a gentleman about ready to get upper jaw surgery. Almost exactly a year ago I was in that office, doing the exact same thing!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Things aren't really looking so hot for my bite, currently. On Friday I had my first migraine since surgery, and I noticed my bite felt really off. It's been feeling a bit off since I got my braces off, but that's because my bite is settling (and that's a good thing, I'm told).

Well, on Friday afternoon I noticed my bottom front teeth were bumping into my top built-in retainer. It kept happening and kept happening and my jaw was starting to get the shooting, awful pains from right after jaw surgery so I called Dr. Molen's office today and they got me in - Dr. Rick thinks my bite is just settling into a natural position. He thinks the headache and jaw pain were caused by my front teeth bumping the retainer (and therefore not being able to close naturally).

He tried to sand down my retainer so it wouldn't bump anymore, but ended up just taking it out. I go in next Wednesday and he'll re-check everything and I think I'll get new retainers, since now mine are a tiny bit loose since the built-in is gone.

Tomorrow I see Dr. Lee for my final pictures and x-rays, hopefully she'll have some insight on my small range of motion and all this stupid jaw pain.

Overall, though, I'm still glad I had the surgery. I ate corn on the cob tonight for the first time and I was able to eat it neatly and cleanly, 2 rows at a time. Only 1 migraine in a year is just fine with me - and that migraine went away once I took a pain pill and slept through the night - it didn't make me puke until I had to go to the ER or anything.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I'm still around, trying to find time to make a big de-bracing entry. A few observations:
  • Not having braces is AWESOME!
  • Flossing and brushing takes just a few minutes even with the built-in retainers on top and bottom.
  • Retainers get smelly really easily. Yuck.
  • While my orthodontist said I could only wear my retainers at night, I've found that if I wait all day (on days that I play instruments, anyway) I have to squeeze on my retainers and it's painful.
  • My ROM has improved slightly - prior to getting them off two fingers fit in tight, now on good days they even have a little space.

Stressful things:

  • My bite doesn't always line up, especially after playing clarinet/sax. The overbite is not a lot bigger, but I'm going to call Dr. Molen as soon as I have a free afternoon so he can double check it. Because it's definitely shifted a bit.
  • My jaw still hurts a lot. Bummer. Once school is out I'll see Dr. Lee and we'll think about doing something about it.