Monday, December 5, 2011

My Road to Jaw Surgery... So Far!

                When I was a teenager, like many people, I wore braces. I wore them for about 2 years. They were pretty awful but I dealt with them. The braces came off when I was about 18-years-old and I was given a set of retainers…. But it wasn’t enough. The braces worked to straighten my teeth and temporarily close my open-bite, but over the course of about 10 years my teeth moved, and moved, and moved… and moved some more. Finally, I had reached a point where I was only able to chew food with 4 teeth in the way back on both sides. The saddest part? I still had all four wisdom teeth so you can imagine how uncomfortable that is if that’s all you can chew with.

Braces as an Adult

                Last year I decided it was time to seek treatment… again. I had noticed that my speech was starting to be affected by the open bite, so even if the chewing wasn’t bad enough, the speech difficulty was enough to push me to see an orthodontist. On top of that, I had started grinding my teeth more while I slept because they weren’t lining up properly, and that was causing a whole mess of problems all on its own!

                I went to an orthodontist hoping to get something like Invisalign haha…. Good luck!  They immediately informed me that my problem isn’t “tongue thrust” as I was always told. That problem is actually somewhat “archaic” and the real cause of my open-bite and problems was a malformed jaw. Basically, as I grew up my jaw grew (or didn’t grow) as it was supposed to and the result is my chronic open-bite and subsequent eating, speaking and bruxing (grinding) issues.

                The orthodontist explained that I would need traditional braces which would actually make my open-bite worse while preparing my jaw for surgery. Surgery would then fix the alignment and sizing issues to correct my bite permanently and the braces would complete their work straightening any uneven teeth afterward.

Orthognathic Surgery

                Now… I can’t speak for everyone in this situation, but when some doctor tells you that the only way to fix your teeth is to literally remove your jaw from your skull and reshape it…. There’s a bit of panic! But, I took my referral and went to my regular doctor to have the referral put into the healthcare system so I could see a surgeon and be evaluated. Once the surgeon evaluated me and I was given the approval that the surgery would be covered by my insurance, I went back to the orthodontist for braces to start the process.

                Initially, I was told that I would have braces put on in July 2010 and by December 2010 I’d be ready for surgery. Well, I had braces put on in July 2010 and by December I went back to my surgeon to find that my surgeon had been reassigned and I now had a new surgeon. This is common in military healthcare facilities so I let it slide and went through the evaluation with the second surgeon. He told me I wasn’t yet ready for surgery and I would need my wisdom teeth extracted. The kicker is – when they extract your wisdom teeth, you have to wait at least 6 months for surgery to allow the bones to heal!  I went in for the teeth to be pulled in March 2011, and they took only the bottom wisdom teeth. I had been under the impression all four were coming out, but they explained (with thumb-popping motion and all!) that if the upper wisdom teeth need to come out, they can just “Pop!” them out during surgery haha….

Still Not Ready for Surgery!

                So, I waited. I waited until September which was 6 months from the extraction and when I went back I again had a new surgeon. I was frustrated but remained as pleasant as possible. Flipping out or getting upset wouldn’t make me feel any better and it certainly wouldn’t make them work any more efficiently, so it seemed pointless. This third surgeon seemed a bit more capable, though. But again, I wasn’t ready!! 

FINALLY Approved for Jaw Surgery!

                I gave disapproving looks as they explained that my teeth just weren’t quite where they needed to be yet. This was quite frustrating because I was having more and more trouble speaking comfortably and eating because of the wider open-bite. But, I had to be understanding. I certainly didn’t want them to rush my procedure and screw up! So I went back to the orthodontist for more adjustments and when I returned to the surgeon in November I was given my approval for surgery!

                But… then the reality of the situation sets in and I started to stress out and worry a lot. 

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