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.