orthognathic surgery

Four Years: From Bad To Worse

Part 4

April 15th, 2011This picture is from three days after the surgery. Despite the bloodstains I was told to leave the bandage on my chin in place. The swelling in the lower half of my face had increased a lot, but at this point there were still no visible bruises.

If you look at my bottom lip you can see that all the the damage done to my lips during surgery is beginning to heal. My left side, right in the photo, was a disgusting mess. That scab was torn, on accident of course, multiple times because of the location and how awkward  it was to work around it.

That’s not the worst part though. Remember, my mouth is held closed and all of the surgical procedures were done using incisions cut into my mouth. Those incisions were stitched shut and the healing process was working its magic inside my mouth as well. While it didn’t hurt due to my being numb from my eyes down I could still taste things.

I could taste my mouth rotting as dead tissue sloughed off inside. It’s why I’m thankful they gave me narcotics like oxycodone. Not for pain suppression, since I was numb there was little pain to begin with. No, it kept me medicated so I didn’t have to experience my mouth rotting as it healed with a complete and rational mind. Just the thought of that still gives me the shivers when I think about it. My mouth was bound shut, there was no spitting that junk out as it sloughed off.

Four Years: Kicked In The Face

Part 4

April 12th, 2011

I took this photo of myself once the anesthesia had begun to wear off. It was less about documenting the procedure and more about wanting to see what my face looked like. There were no mirrors handy at the time so I had to resort to taking a picture. The band wrapped around my cheeks and chin have ice packs inside to help settle the swelling.

My lips look bloody in this photo. They’re not, they were just blood red from the swelling. My face numb from about my eyes down to my neck and the oxygen tube is the most annoying medical device I’ve ever had to use.

My mom recalls the night at the hospital as brutal but she says my nurses were fantastic. The most vivid memory is my vomiting reaction to nausea medication. They tried to give it to me again a few hours later and I all but panicked. I wrote as fast as I could on a piece of paper not to give it to me.

Four Years: Part 4

Part 3

I am getting my most recent profile pictures from my orthodontist. For now I will continue where I left off. My surgery was scheduled for the afternoon on April 12th, 2011. I flew my mom to Hawaii a week before the surgery so we could have some time before the procedure. I checked into the hospital in the morning and we spent the night there as well. I was in surgery for six hours.

I decided I won’t withhold details so if you’re squeamish, be warned.

The night after surgery is among the hardest nights of my life. I had surgery once before: I had my appendix removed the night before 9/11. That was mild stomach pain, this was something else. It wasn’t painful but I could not shake feeling as though I had been kicked in the face by a horse. Even harder was being unable to express my discomforts with the ease I could that same morning.

Rubber bands held my jaw closed so it wouldn’t move and ruin the surgeon’s positioning. The worst part of the night was having a reaction to nausea medication. I vomited. With my mouth held shut.

When looking at the pictures of myself compared to other people who have undergone similar surgeries I feel like I look much worse. My lips were massive following the surgery. Below are pictures taken during my recovery. I only included pictures I felt showed the changes the best.

Mousing over them will show the date. I will talk about stories behind some of those pictures next.

Part 5

Four Years: Part 3

Part 2

January, 2011 my orthodontist decided it was time to move ahead with my treatment plan. He introduced me to my maxillofacial surgeon and I began a series of pre-surgery appointments. Here are the basic steps of my surgery:

        • Split and widen the upper jaw
        • Cut and move the bottom jaw forward
        • Push the chin outward

A wedge shaped cut in my upper jaw would widen it as it was too narrow for the desired bite. Next they moved the bottom jaw forward, by cutting a section of bone on either side, which would align the teeth for my bite. Then a sliding genioplasty pushes a horseshoe shaped section from the middle of my chin outward. I elected to do the genioplasty because my lower jaw was about to be shifted forward and my chin would diminish without a similar adjustment outward.

All my pre-surgery appointments were to build what is called a splint. The splint was made from impressions of my upper and lower teeth and x-rays and shaped to be the ideal model for my bite. This mold is what they would use to guide my jaw while in surgery, to provide the desired result.

Part 4

Four Years: Part 2

Part 1

I moved to Hawaii in August, 2008, stationed on Oahu with the US Navy. Once my job qualifications were completed I scheduled a consultation for orthodontic treatment. The dental clinic made me an appointment to see a doctor at Makalapa, the clinic at Pearl Harbor. After his examination he determined that I had a case and could see an orthodontist for evaluation. The only military orthodontists on the island are seen through Tripler Army Medical Center.

The orthodontist examined me and made the decision as to whether orthodontic treatment was necessary or cosmetic. This would determine whether the Navy would pay for my orthodontic treatment or if I would have to pay out of pocket. He decided that it was necessary due to my jaw dislocating and the quality of life improvement if my teeth and bite were corrected. May, 2009 I was fitted for my bands and began an almost two year process of shifting my teeth.

My initial orthodontic treatment focused on closing the gaps and pulling my front teeth back into my mouth. They also rotated a few of my teeth so they lined up with the rest of my bite. This took about a year and half of adjustments to my wires, but overall it was smooth sailing. My doctor and dental assistants were great about letting me know what was happening and explaining everything.

Part 3

Four Years

In January 2005 my mom took me to see an orthodontist. I had a large gaps in my front teeth with a severe overbite. We were going to see how much it would cost to correct these. The orthodontist told me that they could fix the spacing in my teeth but only some of the overbite.

I would need extensive facial reconstructive surgery or I would have to wear a retainer for the rest of my life. My bottom jaw was undersized, creating the overbite and gaps in my teeth. My bite created wear on my teeth and gums. I could also dislocate my jaw by opening it too wide. However my parents didn’t have the money for pay for the surgery so we decided I would forgo braces.

May, 2009 I began treatment. Four years later my braces came off. Pictures and full story to come.

Part 2