Blog Post # 2
So it’s been a month since my first post and a lot has happened. I had my surgical consult with Gunson, had my wisdom teeth removed March 20th, and got top pre-surgical braces. Before I start, I just wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to read my story and for sending me such kind comments! You all really made my day! Okay so now let’s talk about all this new news
The Surgery Consult
Dr. Gunson is a maxillofacial surgeon who specializes in facial reconstruction and is located in Santa Barbara, California. He and his business partner, Dr. Arnett, are the best at what they do and hold conferences around the world teaching their surgical techniques.
Going into the appointment, it was no surprise that his plan involved upper and lower jaw surgery. He said that my orthodontist, Dr. Lindeman, could intrude all my molars and my bite would still be the culprit of malocclusion. booo! In other words, I would not be able to bite together, and the intrusion process would only hurt the health of my jaw joints. This is a cause for concern as my joints themselves are abnormally small, and if my bite is not fixed properly, then there could be detrimental effects on those little guys.
So now let’s talk surgeries…bum…bum…bummm
Le Fort 1 Osteotomy Multi-segment with bone grafting
Bilateral Sagittal Osteotomy with bone grafting
Lots of surgical terms in there…
Essentially the first surgery listed has to do with my upper jaw or maxillary. They cut above my gum line all the way across my teeth and under my nose so the break is mobile. Wahhhh…. Then since my palate is too narrow, he has to split it into multiple pieces so that it can be widened. Once that’s done, Gunson will put my rebuilt maxilla back into my skull and reposition it so that it sits further down and farther out. Lastly, he will fill in ALL the missing bone with bone grafts and other materials and screw me altogether.
The second surgery has to do with my mandible or lower jaw. Gunson will break my lower jaw on either side so that the break is able to slide. (The break is similar to a half-lap joint break in woodworking.) Anyway once the break happens, he will bring my lower jaw up to close my open bite and out to open my constricted airway. Then he will graft bone in the empty places and screw everything together.
The last surgery is a chin repositioning. Gunson will break my chin and reposition it so that it is properly placed in relation to my new mandible. No bone grafting on this one thank goodness but I will have plates and screws in my chin holding everything together.
Anyone elses’ jaws hurt from reading this…I know mine do.
So those are the surgeries that my little face is going to undergo explained in the least gruesome way possible. I know that they have to be done, but the thought of waking up in the hospital with 8+ breaks to my face is absolutely, 100% terrifying!!
Needless to say, I completely underestimated the intensity of these surgeries and now understand why they are typically only performed on people 22 years or older.
If you think the surgeries are bad just wait until you hear about the recovery. My whole face will be numb for a few months post-op because the surgery is so invasive that all of my facial nerves will be bruised. Since my face will be broken in so many places I’ll be on a strict liquid diet for 16-18 weeks plus. On average, most people lose 20 pounds in the first 3 weeks. So if you’re looking for a quick way to lose weight I suggest double jaw surgery. haha. Anyway…so now that we’ve discussed the infamous jaw surgery let’s talk splints.
A splint is a piece of hard acrylic molded to either your top or bottom teeth that mimics a perfect bite. The purpose of a splint is to seat your jaw joints correctly in their sockets. You then go to your orthodontist every few days to have the splint ground down and adjusted to your shifting bite. My first splint had to be relined with acrylic twice from all the adjusting sessions. Thankfully, after many splints, two orthodontists, and innumerable orthodontist visits my joints are finally seated in their sockets. woot-woot!
When I first had jaw symptoms, my joints were not seated correctly so I was placed in a top monoplane splint 24/7 to uncover the problem. The first time I got splinted my open bite was only 1 mm, but two months into wearing the splint and I had opened up to a whopping 7 millimeters!! This orthodontist uncovered the hidden open bite but did not have the expertise to treat me so I moved to undoubtedly one of the best orthos in the country, Dr. Lindeman.
Here is a pic of my first top splint.
Not enlarged for effect…the splint I wore 24/7 was really that big.
Once I started seeing Dr. Lindeman he moved me to a bottom splint and added cuspid guidance. This splint is leaps and bounds better than my previous ones. I still continue to have my splint adjusted every 2 weeks because I now have braces and the movement of my teeth throws off my bite.
Pic of my bottom splint I currently wear 24/7.
What my mouth currently looks like with the splint and braces.
This is me biting down as far as I can go…
In a few months, I’ll get bottom braces as well and then have a top splint with the braces. Yep, it’s going to be pretty darn fashionable!
So after seeing these horrendous pictures of my bite, you might be wondering what, more like how do I eat. Well, for the past year I have been on a strict soft food diet. I can’t chew with the splint in and I can’t chew with it out because my teeth don’t touch. So I mush—everything—and eat with baby spoons. My diet consists of mashed sweet potatoes, soups, applesauce or any puréed fruit, baby food, and more ice cream then I’d like to admit. So after surgery, my biggest excitement is to be able to bite together. It’s been so long that I no longer remember what it feels like to have my teeth touch. 😦 After I’m healed the first thing I want to do is just to bite into anything and chew—really chew.
Here is one of my CT scans so you can see how my bite really doesn’t come together.
- P.S. those wisdom teeth are now removed!
Every time I look at these pictures I feel sick because this used to be me…
…and now my life has flopped.
Going from a super competitive dancer and the girl that baked like crazy and wore sparkles with everything…to going to multiple doctors appointments every week, not being able to go to school, and barely able to walk around the block without being totally depleted for the day has been hard—really hard. I look in the mirror and no longer see the happy bubbly girl that was there 18 months ago. I see a girl who is sick, and who can’t even do a simple task like bite together. Not going to lie, guys, many days I have spent crying and asking why….why did this happen to me? But then I realize that no matter how many tears I shed, crying isn’t going to heal me. It isn’t going to take away the pain, or the terrible bite, or fix my breathing….it’s just not. I don’t know why I was dealt this card in life, but it was dealt none the less. So I keep going, keep hoping things are going to get better, keep dreaming that I’ll see the bubbly happy girl in the mirror again sometime soon.
Thanks for reading and hope y’all have a great EASTER!
Talk soon, Blakely