Day 186: Retainers

Well, my braces are no more and in their place I know have permanent wire retainers behind my top and bottom front teeth.

I would take a picture but how exactly does one do that? :) They are permanently bonded to my teeth and although they seem a tad strange now (my tongue is constantly rubbing them) I am told I will not even notice them after a while.

I also have a pair of retainers that I am supposed to wear in the evening. You can see them above. They feel great actually. Never ends all this dental work does it!
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Day 172: Goodbye Braces . . .

Before I wax lyrical, let me just say that I am now the proud owner of a mouth WITHOUT braces! Yup, you read correctly, my teeth are now freed from their mechanical prison, I no longer have to worry about what foods will get stuck in my braces, I no longer have to position my mouth so as not to rub the wires against the arch wires and hooks, I no longer have to do a whole lot of things. I am free from braces!!!

Of course, being able to smile without have the reflection of metal also means, somewhat regrettably., that this journey is now at an end. I am almost sad if that doesn't sound too strange. That said, here are a few facts that might be of interest to you (and if not, well, they are to me)

  583: Days since my braces were installed
  171: Days since my jaw surgery
  1: Teeth extracted in the process
  18 mm: Total movement that my lower jaw was moved forward by the surgeon. The average is 5-7mm. 18mm was almost a record for my surgeon who has decades of experience.
  12 mm: Total that my upper jaw was widened by the surgeon.
  40 lbs: Total weight loss since my surgery
  1: Nights I have snored since my surgery (my wife can attest!)
  Zero: Feeling in my chin as a result of surgery
  Zero: Regrets about have the surgery performed . . .

Quite incredible when you think about it really; although 583 days sounds like a long time I can honestly say that time has flown by. Well, perhaps with the exception of the one week following surgery :)

I have spent an inordinate amount of time today looking inside my mouth, looking at my teeth, rubbing my tongue on teeth, practicing my smile in the mirror, and overall feeling a tad happy about how everything has turned out . . .

Within the next week I will add the remaining pictures, add additional content to the FAQ, and add a final Lessons Learned post. I just wanted to get a quick post written letting you know that my braces are finally off!

It has been quite an adventure hasn’t it . . .

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Day 143: GREAT News!

Has time really flown by that quickly!?

Great news today! Despite being told at the onset that I would, in all eventuality, have to wear braces for 12 or so months after my surgery (given the amount of movement that was required), I was told today that my braces will be coming off on September 26th!!!!!!

How fantastic is that! For many of you who have not had this surgery you might wonder what on earth I am so happy about but let me tell you that this whole adventure started with braces and now that I am having them removed it is means that the journey, adventure, call-it-what-you-will, is now drawing to a close.

No more rubbing gums, no more constantly checking my teeth after I have eaten, no more self conscious looking in the mirror to make sure my braces are clean, no more visible reminders of the last two years, no more, well, anything! Fantastic.

I really have made a point of following all of the instructions and directions that my Orthodontist has given me and I have been super anal about always bearing my bands. I guess the diligence paid off because my teeth have moved considerably quicker than originally anticipated to the point that my teeth are now aligned for the first time in almost 40 years, not to mention the fact that my jaws are now aligned and all the benefits that come along with that!

Today is a happy day let me tell you :)

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Day 126: Time Flies and General Update

My 100 day mark anniversary came and went in the blink of an eye! I should celebrate by having a steak, or chicken, or shrimp, or something. However, given that I cannot chew very well to say the least there would be little point in doing so! :)

So, given that I have not posted in a month and I have had a lot of emails asking about my progress, I thought I would finally get around to stop being so lazy and actually write something! In terms of specific updates, I have listed them below. I will add comparison front and side profile pictures by the end of the week (I promise!).

I was originally told that I could expect to wear my braces for six months following the magical 6 week post-surgery mark. That essentially meant I was looking at the end of November or the beginning of December 2012 to have them removed and for this journey to end.

However, my last two appointments with Dr. Watson (Orthodontist) have been really positive in terms of teeth movement and he said that my left side of my mouth is where it needs to be and I just need a little more movement on the right side of my mouth. The good news is that he thinks I may be able to get my braces out at the end of September or October at the latest. How great is that!

I cannot imagine not wearing these braces, or especially the elastic bands that I wear presently (see right). I have to wear one band on each side of my mouth and he decreased the elasticity of the bands last week to pull one of my teeth faster and it has had the effect of making mu top teeth rather sensitive but really, after undergoing this surgery, I can handle sensitive and aching teeth for a month or two! :)

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Day 81: Light at the end of the tunnel

Visited my Orthodontist again today and received great news! After looking at how much far my teeth have moved in the last month, he told me that instead of the anticipated November / December timeframe for having my braces removed, he is thinking it will be just 3 months (September / October)! How fantastic is that news!

I was completely expecting my braces to be on a good 6-9 months post-surgery but to be told it might only be a total of 3 or 4 months is great news, especially given my post last week concerning my crooked teeth!

The teeth that are most crooked in terms of not having a straight line when looking at them are the bottom front teeth. My Orthodontist told me that essentially I have two options where one of my teeth are concerned; the tooth that needs to be raised significantly to be at the same level as the other teeth will either need to have a crown and bridge attached or else he can grind tal three/ four so that they would be level and smooth. He thinks that the crown would be difficult given the size of the tooth and the fact that is a bottom front tooth and his recommendation was simply to grind them. Sounded fine to me so that is what he will do . . .

This adventure seems to be drawing to a close, it really does :)
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Day 73: Crooked Teeth and Blog Issues

Wow, sorry about the delay in posting!

Due to some technical issues my last few posts have not posted. I am still experiencing issues with uploaded photographs - I hope by tonight to have all of the issues resolved and everything back up-to-date (photographs, FAQ, etc).

Thanks for the emails and comments wondering what was going on! :)

Well, here we are at week 10! It seems like an eon ago that I had my surgery which is not a bad thing having to remember the first few weeks let me tell you:)

I was looking at the inside of my mouth in the mirror last night and in terms of mobility my jaws are opening completely in terms of up and down motion but I cannot move my jaws at all left and right. Never even thought about whether I needed to move it like that to be honest but there is no movement whatsoever left and right. One would think that you need them to move left and right simply to be able to chew but given that my chewing is almost not existent presently (unless you count putting instant pudding between my teeth in an effort to get used to the new bite position!) I guess it doesn't matter.

The biggest observation however was how crooked my teeth presently are, especially my bottom front teeth. They were not this crooked prior to surgery (I don't think) and it is quite amusing how rooked they actually are. My Orthodontist has his work cut out for him I think! :) Some teeth need to be lifted, some need to be pushed down, they all need to be aligned in terms of how straight they are when you look at them but apart from that, they look great! :)

So, after 10 weeks, what do I think of my new face so far you might wonder?! Well, I have to say that I am super happy with the progress I have made to date. That doesn't mean that some things don't bother me or frustrate me, of course they do but considering the severity of the operation, life is  great! In terms of these minor frustrations, I am talking about:

I really wish that I had feeling in my lips and chin as it is just plain inconvenient quite honestly. My lips feel swollen (even though they are not) all of the time and it changes the way in which I talk.

The numbness is definitely a distraction, especially where my lips are concerned (I liken it to the feeling you have when you have a tooth extraction - only the feeling is presently permanent for the last 3 months!) but the reality is that there is little you can do about it. Nerves take time to regenerate. Sometime they regenerate, sometimes they do not but it is a good sign that I have a tingling sensation in my lips.

As I have mentioned numerous times before, I know that it can take anywhere up to 18 months post-op for the swelling to completely go away but the fact is that I am tired of the swelling already :) Most people do not even notice it I am sure but I notice it as it changes how I look. It bugs me. Nothing can be done however so you just get on with it really . . ..

A combination of numbness and swelling causes me to talk differently than I did prior to surgery. At least that is what I think. Everyone tells me that I talk just like I did prior to surgery but what with the numbness and associated sensations, I am very self-conscious presently about how I talk and how I need to focus on enunciation whereas previously this was not an issue. Think about after you have been to the dentist and had a tooth removed - difficult to talk isn't it? Well, that is how it is for me permanently.

Again, recognising that this will not be an issue once all of the above issues are resolved, I still cannot smile normally. Or perhaps I simply have to readjust to what normal is now given the new jaw structure, bone positions, teeth alignment, etc. I look at myself smiling and it looks, well, weird quite honestly. Not at all natural. I find myself smiling with my mouth close rather than with my mouth open because I think it is strange looking.

I admit that all of the above issues are probably all psychological but that is part of the recovery process I guess - adjusting to the new face and all of the mechanics behind that. It isn't like they really frustrate me on a daily basis or anything, just something that I recognise that bothers me to some degree. Make sense?
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Day 64: Rules around eating without chewing . . .

Continuing on from my previous post, I wondered what it was going to be like to chew but not chew given that it is painful. mmmm. A dilemma indeed.

Given that I have not eaten proper, normal food, food some months now you would think it would be fantastic but you have to somewhat curtail your enthusiasm when you consider that although you eat normal foods, you cannot actually chew them . . .

That said, a new world has been opened up to me where I basically can eat anything as long as the following rules a applied:
  1. The food is cut up in to small, small pieces (so as not to choke)
  2. The food must have some degree of moisture or liquidity contained within it
  3. The food can must be able to be easily swallowed OR
  4. The food can be washed down easily if not easily swallowed

The reason it has to be cut up in to little pieces is that since it cannot be chewed, it will have to be swallowed. So if the food is too big, it gets caught in my throat. Trying to pretend you are not choking at the dinner table is an art form in of itself but not recommended.

The reason for the moisture is that the more liquid, the easier it is to slurp and swallow :) If the food is too dry, there is nothing to slurp and swallow. Plus you really don't get to enjoy the food when you realise you cannot swallow it due to a lack of liquid. Rather inconvenient actually. . .

If all else fails you simply put the food in your mouth, suck the flavor out of it and then wash it down with water. Primitive sounds I release but it works. :)

Following these rules has enabled me to once again join the ranks of moral eating people! I have eaten chicken (bit too dry), different kinds of meat, cereal, vegetables, etc., though rest assured I am still partial to good old' instant pudding. I think I will be addicted to that for the rest of my life.

On a side note, when I am having lunch, especially when in the company of colleagues or strangers, I find myself apologising; I am constantly, constantly, wiping my chin after I have taken a bite of some food or even drinking. The reason is that my nerves are playing games with me and every time I eat or drink, it completely feels like I am drooling down my chin. I never am, but the sensation is so real that I need to verify that I haven't done so as you know the moment you stop checking will be the moment you find yourself with banana instant pudding dripping down your chin!

A minor inconvenience and hopefully one that will go away once (when) I regain normal feeling in my lips and chin.

I imagine given that I am eating relatively normal again that i am going to start putting on weight once again. Ah well, I knew it was too good to last!

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Day 59: Surgeon Visit and Chewing

Visited my surgeon again today and given that I am back under the care of my Orthodontist I do not have the visit him again for one whole month! Gone are the days of two visits a week or every week. This is a good sign :)

Apparently, all is well with my jaws and they are stable and strong enough for me to start chewing. That was my main question today - when I can I start chewing and what am I allowed to chew?

I would have liked to receive a nice glossy, laminated, full page cover photo detailing all of the foods I can start to chew and the respective timeframes that I can start eating them! No such luck however - I was simply told that I can start chewing and basically it is a question of slowly does it and experimentation. By this, I was told that if your teeth hurt when you chew a particular food group (and they will), then you do not want to chew that food! Really. Note the sarcasm please . . .

He said that it will be rather uncomfortable (read: painful) to chew until such a time that my teeth are more aligned than they are presently. Moving my jaws so far forward really knocked them out of alignment I guess :)

So, a question of trial and error. I tried a piece of tiny piece of chicken yesterday (by mistake) and it is fair to say that it was indeed uncomfortable. That said, the discomfort and pain could be because I am now wearing braces again and they are being pulled and stretched as a result of the rubber bands. If it is not thing, it is another. Given that I will be wearing braces, according to my Orthodontist, for at least another six months, then chewing will be a question of baby steps. Isn't everything where this surgery is concerned!?

Given that I am almost eight weeks post-op, most of the issues relating to surgery have resolved themselves. Thankfully.

The one overriding issue I am presently experiencing is the fact that I still cannot feel anything where my lips and chin are concerned. Talking is a strange sensation quite honestly - my lips feel huge and I cannot feel anything and so it seems awkward for me to talk but friends and family tell me I sound normal so it is more psychological I guess. Just imagine that you have had a tooth taken out and the feeling that you have in terms of numbness and tingling. That is what I am feeling 24/7 presently.

The swelling is what it is and I do not expect it to substantively decrease anytime soon. My weight loss has plateaued which is a good sign also!

There you have it, not a whole lot new to be honest. I will update the blog once a week from now on and I will update the photo and FAQ sections on the same schedule.
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Day 54: Patience and my Profile . . .

I mentioned in my last post about my profile and the comparison with 16 months ago when the Orthodontic work started. I have attached a picture on the left showing three timeframes; 16 months ago, the day before surgery, and then finally a photo taken at day 52 post-surgery.

Truthfully, I have to say that I am not liking my profile at all presently; I think it looks incredibly flat and also my jaw sticks out a lot compared with how it used to be. I look like I have a boxers face from the 1970's :)

My jaw used to stick out but only because I sub-consciously projected it forward so as not to leave it in its default, recessed, position that you can see in the far left picture. I find myself therefore comparing my jaw position, not with the picture from 16 months ago, but rather with pictures where I was projecting my jaw forward, and in comparison with the day 52 picture, I am not liking it.

Now of course I recognise that the way my side profile looks now will not be the way I look in 18 months or so but patience in terms of getting and feeling better has never been a favourable character trait of mine :)

Facial Swelling affects the way your face looks and I know that my profile will change as the swelling decreases over the next year or so. Everything from my lips, cheeks, nose, forehead, is affected by the swelling but truthfully I have never been a great visualiser and so I find it difficult to project what I will look like next year!

Plus, as my wife says, we are talking about my side profile here and so does it really matter as how many times does a person look at their side profile! Good point :)

Changing the perspective from my side profile to how I look when see my face in the mirror: If you ignore my chipmunk cheeks, the non-existent smile due to the swelling, and the consequent freaky smile, I actually like the way I look in comparison!

My face is fuller, certainly but I can at least see my bottom teeth when I attempt to smile and my chin seems more balanced in terms of perspective! So you see, I do have a positive attitude about all of this, I just wish that I like my side profile more than I do. However, as I have said, I will like it, I just have to wait 18 months to do so! :)
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Day 52: Bye Bye Surgical Hooks!

I wrote on Monday about milestones and one of them was the sixth week anniversary. One aspect of this recovery is that you have your surgical hooks removed which believe me, is a very good thing! Today was that momentous day . . .

I had an appointment with my Orthodontist and was there a good 90 minutes or so! I have realised that where my treatment is concerned, very little ever goes according to plan :)

They first of all removed the supporting top arch wire that was put in place a fortnight or so ago and then the surgical hooks were removed which was just a question (from my perspective although no doubt considerably more difficult that I am giving them credit for here!) of snipping / cutting the wires and then pulling the wires out of their holding brackets. As soon as the wires out, I felt an immediate difference inside my mouth. The hooks and supporting arch wire obviously push your upper lip forward a wee' bit and all that entails where talking is concerned. Once they were out, it felt great! :) I talk about the small things where recovery is concerned and this was one such baby step . . .

They then had to replace some of my braces due to the wings being broken over the past two months or so. I found something out where clear braces are concerned and how you remove them and that is that they shatter compared with typical braces which are able to simply be pulled off your teeth! So, I closed my eyes and listened to my Orthodontist shatter the braces inside my mouth. How strange is that! Following this they cleaned the teeth and removed the glue that had bonded the braces to my teeth in preparation to for the new braces to be put on.

Putting on the new braces was no an issue but managing to get the new wires installed correctly proved to be somewhat frustrating (not for me please note but rather for the lady putting them on!) experience. One brace in particular was not cooperating due to a damaged brace wing which resulted in the wire constantly slipping off. I felt somewhat bad for her as she probably was not anticipating spending so much time one patient today! :) They finally decided to take the one offending brace off again and replace it with a metal brace (back of my mouth so nobody will see it) that has a hook on it instead of a brace wing.

Once all that was done, it was simply a question of showing me where the new orthodontic bands need to be placed and I was finished! As I said, I used a lot of their time this morning and no doubt created quite a mess (see pic on right). They did a great job as always and I am super impressed both with Dr. Watson as well as obviously his assistants. They do a great job!

So there you have it - I am now back to wearing just braces and it feels wonderful. Whoever would think to say that wearing braces is wonderful :) My teeth look clean, my clear braces look great, and I feel like today was an important step in the recovery process. A good day.

I have to wear just two bands, one on each side, and will continue to be banded for the duration of the orthodontia work. Dr. Watson thinks it will take somewhere in the region of six months to complete everything which is not bad at all. Hopefully by Christmas I will be completely done with braces, surgery, recovery issues, etc!

Dr. Watson had taken photographs of my face when I started treatment 16 months ago and so I took a few pictures of those pictures as I don't have them. I created a time frame comparison photograph showing my front and side profile from 16 months ago, the day before my surgery, and today. I have attached it below as well as attaching more photographs in the Photo Journal section above. Kinda cool.

I have also updated the Photo Journal section and hopefully you will it more organised than perhaps it was previously :)

I have some thoughts of how I look presently but I think I will write about that tomorrow . . .

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Day 50: Milestones and Mater . . .

Fifty days since my surgery, wow, I cannot believe how fast time has flown by! I read my blog and it feels so surreal to see the pictures, read everything that has happened since my surgery, the changes that have happened where my face is concerned, etc. Amazing.

You spend so much time preparing for this surgery and you count down the months, weeks, and day, before your surgery date and then it is over and the next thing you know it has been 50 days!

Over the course of the last fifty days, as well as when I consider the next few months, there are a few milestones it seems to me that exist and that you should consider:

Milestone 1: The First Week
If ever you have considered Orthognathic (Jaw) surgery, you will have read many, many articles in blogs, forums, and discussion groups about the dreaded first week! :)

You can, and most definitely should, prepare for this surgery by understanding all about the recovery process and what to expect in terms of bruising, swelling, the splint, rubber bands, nausea, eating through a syringe, pain management, yawning, coughing, nasal congestion, learning to breathe, etc., etc. Justa  few highlights of what happens! . . .

I did read everything about this fist week post-surgery and I thought I was exceptionally well prepared for what was to happen in terms of recovery but the reality is that there is a significant difference between understanding from a theoretical point of view and actually living through the experience! A significant difference.

It seemed, at least where my experience was concerned, that all of the issues that I mentioned above seemed to happen in parallel and were never ending that first week. It was tough for me, it genuinely is something that I would not wish to experience again.

That said, I do not, in any way, think that the first week should act as a reason for not undergoing this surgery. Not all all. It is simply one week and it passes quickly (thought perhaps not at the time!) and like I said above, before you know it, it is day 50! :) Be aware of what happens, prepare for it, and most importantly, focus on the end goal.

Milestone 2: Splint Removal
Many people who have had this surgery have not listed this as a milestone but for me, it most definitely was! The splint was simply an inconvenience. Not in terms of pain but in terms of an impediment to talking, eating, drinking, cleaning your teeth, etc, it ranked very high on the inconvenience scale! My splint was taken off at day 24 and you can read about it here. It is a major milestone as far as I am concerned!

Milestone 3: Six Week Mark
The six week mark is important because it typically signifies the end of being under the care of your oral surgeon and the resuming your orthodontia treatments. So instead of meeting with your oral surgeon every week  you now get to meet with your Orthodontist every month :) The good news is that your surgical hooks get removed!

My six week mark was last week and this may sound strange but it is somewhat strange not to be seeing my Oral Surgeon every week! I will still continue to see my surgeon (once a month)until the Orthodontist is finished with their work and I am free from braces!

Milestone 4: 60 - 90 Days
This milestone typically signifies the end of anything major in terms of recovery. It can happen before this time frame of course, it depends upon how well you are recovering. Essentially all that is happening in terms of recovery is outstanding swelling, nerve issues, and Orthodontia work.

For me, I see this milestone happening very shortly in fact. I am dealing with swelling and nerve issues but part from that, I am very well establish on the road to recovery I am glad to say!

Milestone 5: The Journey Ends
By this, I mean that all work connected to surgery and orthodontics is complete! You no longer wear braces (retainers only) and the surgery is but a distant nightmare that you have tried to forget! :) As to when this milestone happens, well, it depends! A favourite saying of every Oral Surgeon and Orthodontist it seems to me!

Some people have to wear their braces for 3-4 months after surgery and some wear them for up to 12-18 months after surgery! It really depends. As for me, it was supposed to be six months after surgery but I will find out more tomorrow when I visit my Orthodontist :)

Given the above, I am going to change my schedule of blogging from every day to every other day. Hopefully this makes sense and you will continue to follow my blog. Even though the day to day issues have somewhat plateaued, I still have many months of Orthodontics left before this journey can be declared over! :) 

Also, I have updated the photo section to include a facial time frame of the last fifty days.

You might be wondering  about the reference to Mater in my blog post title. Well, after the film Cars came out in 2006, my aunt and uncle called me one day to tell me that they had seen the film and that one of the characters reminded them of me in terms of looks; you guessed it, that character was Mater! Now you might think that this is not nice but I guess you have to appreciate the type of humour that exists between us all!

The name stuck and my kids joke with me every time they see the character either on TV or in a store. Well, yesterday we were shopping in a Disney store and came across a Mater Plush Doll and I had to take a picture! I definitely do not look like Mater anymore but I am sure the name will stick for posterity :)
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Day 49: Serendipity and Jay Leno . . .

You know, writing a blog every day about the recovery process and everything to do with jaw surgery has been an interesting process but I confess, at times, that I find myself wondering about what I am going to write about on a particular day. I could tell that today was going to be one such day until I had a conversation with someone about my surgery.

So instead of writing about nerves, swelling, talking, eating, scar tissue, cleaning teeth, etc., I thought instead that I would simply write about events and how you never know why things happen but invariably they happen for a reason . . .

We have some friends who have a child who is in need of some Orthognathic work and although they had visited other surgeons and Orthodontists over the past year or so and received recommendations as to how to proceed, for whatever reason they never moved forward on the recommendations.

Both my wife and I, in discussing my surgery with them, as well as talking to them about the jaw surgery work that their son apparently needs, felt like my surgeon (Dr. Egbert) would be a great fit for their son and we highly recommended him to them. Not only does Dr. Egbert have 20+ years of experience in this field but he has a personality that makes you feel at home as it were and as I have discussed before, I think having a great relationship with your surgeon in many ways is equally as important as the credentials and experience that a surgeon may posses. This would especially be true I think for a teenager or younger adult.

So, our friends made an appointment with Dr. Egbert and sufficed to say both their child and the parents loved him! Jaw surgery is now scheduled to take place in a few months time and everything will be taken care of which is fantastic! We are really excited for them and know that everything will turn out like they want and it will be a great benefit in so many ways for their child.

What has this to do with my blog you might ask. Well, many people ask me why I even write this blog as comparatively speaking, it isn't as if I have thousands of people looking at the blog everyday and I have no advertisements on the blog so really, what is the point?!

Two things to think about in context of the above story; firstly, being able to share my experiences is cathartic not just for me personally but it also allows others who are thinking of this surgery to understand on some level what they might expect in terms of pre and post-surgery preparation and recovery. I know that for me personally, this was exceptionally beneficial in reducing my anxiety and preparing me for the surgery and recovery process.

Secondly, our friends are convinced that it was meant to be that they use Dr. Egbert as for the past year they simply have not felt right about the other medical practitioners they have visited and consequently appointments were not made, surgeries were not scheduled, etc. However, after meeting Dr. Egbert, they all felt really positive about him and the direction he recommended and most importantly, their child feels excited about moving forward. You just never know why certain things happen and the serendipitous nature of life do you . . .

Moving on to lighter fare, someone at our local church asked my wife today how I was progressing to which my wife responded that I was doing much better. The individual responded by saying that, "I see that he [me!] is going the Jay Leno route". What does that mean!@!?

When we returned home, I took a not-very-good-photo of my profile (picture on right)  to see what on earth he was going on about! Now I recognise that my facial swelling causes my face to look different that it eventually will look like (cheeks swollen, lips swollen, overall profile affected by swelling, etc.,) but really, Jay Leno?! Now if that isn't enough to make you question surgery, I don't know what would be! :)
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Day 48: How Not to Present a Professional Image . . .

I made mention of this a few days ago but the myriad of arch wires in my mouth are progressively causing me more inconvenience, pain, and most definitely causing me embarrassing moments. :) Read on for further details . . .

When my splint was removed, the top surgical hook arch wire was cut in half, right in the middle. This was deliberately done obviously so as to remove the wires that were holding my splint in place. The following day I was to have the surgical hook wire replaced by my Orthodontist and new braces fitted on the top and bottom of my teeth so that my Orthodontist would essentially be able to start afresh for the next phase in my recovery and orthodontics.

Given that I have been wearing braces for 14 months or so, combined with the surgical hook wire since my surgery, many of my brace wings have broken off. This is quite understandable given that many of the bands are wrapped around the brace wings rather than the surgical hooks and the pressure of the bands is too much for the brace wings and they consequently break.

However, as you have no doubt guessed where this surgery is concerned, things do not always go according to plan! My braces were not replaced (see here for an explanation), nor was the surgical hook wire replaced. Instead, I had another wire placed over the surgical hook wire.

The issue that I have been experiencing for a week or so now is that this new wire has become loose and is no longer attached to the surgical hook wires. So, I have pieces of wire sticking out everywhere. I have tried to show this in the photograph on the right (you will have to zoom the picture) and hopefully you can see where half of the surgical hook is above my arch wire and the other half is dangling down beneath this new wire. The new wire is incredibly lose and I find myself pushing it up all the time as it falls down whoever I talk.

Let me tell you now that there is nothing like talking to someone whilst simultaneously playing with the multitude of wires in your mouth. Very professional and attractive. My oral surgeon tied one half of the wire earlier this week in an attempt to keep it in place but it is already loose and loose they will stay until I see my Orthodontist later next week.

In the meantime, I will continue being stabbed by wires in my mouth, continue biting my scar tissue by my non-functioning tooth, and continue to push up wires in my mouth whilst talking to people. The problem is that you really cannot explain to people the reasons why you are playing with your mouth as firstly, it takes too long to explain everything and secondly, people don't care (would you!?) - they just want to have a normal conversation with somebody whilst not being distracted by having said individual constantly putting their fingers and playing with braces! :)

Now I recognise many of you are saying, "it is easy, simply don't put your fingers in your mouth! The problem is that if I do not, then I am then constantly being stabbed by the errant wires which, believe me, is not at all comfortable (remember the wires were cut so each end of the cut wire is sharp!) and it causes me to grimace and flinch! What would you rather have happen whilst talking; grimace and have a nervous tick every time you are poked with a sharp wire or else put fingers in mouth and push up the wires before they stab you? See what I mean. I don't remember the surgeon or Orthodontist talking about this particular issue . . . 

Finally, as is custom, I need to show you that my diet is improving! I ate (sucked, slurped, and swallowed) delicious salmon, potatoes (boiled), and even corn! Corn by the way is quite impossible to eat on its own but combine the corn with beans and they are far easier to eat!
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Day 47: Skinnylicious and Weight Loss . . .

I kinda' liked the word Skinnylicious so I titled my blog post after the word :) I would like to say that as a result of the surgery I am once again skinny but the reality is that I have not been skinny for a very long time so setting a goal to be skinny is not realistic! :)

The wonderful thing about being tall (there are not that many reasons why being tall is a good thing) is that even when you are carrying some weight, it is kinda' hidden by being tall! Many people have told me that I have no weight to lose when I tell them I have lost weight and I just laugh - little do they know!

You would think being addicted to unhealthy foods, as I am since my surgery (instant pudding, starchy mashed potatoes, ice-cream, smoothies, etc), that I would be putting weight on but I am not. So far, I am down about 26/27 lbs (1st, 13lbs for my British friends) and I don't seem to be able to put it back on. Not that I am necessarily trying to put it back on please note but I did think my unhealthy diet would at least keep me from losing weight!

That said, I had salmon tonight (fish is very easy to break in to small pieces and slurp down my throat) so that has to count towards something doesn't it! I am sure once all the bands are off and more importantly. that I am able to chew once again, that I will put the weight back on but for now I am somewhat enjoying this temporary weight loss. The surgery has, however, taught me that I need to modify my diet and eating habits once I return to pre-surgery eating functionality! I ate too much, it is that simple!

The funny thing about this surgery is that given you're banded shut for many months and the process involved in actually eating, you learn to appreciate that you really do not need to eat as much as you do. At least I do not need to eat as much as I did! :) Too many snacks, too many sodas. I tell people all the time that I really have little desire to eat snacks anymore given the hassle to take my bands off, clean my teeth, ensure that I do not chew, hope I do not bite my scar tissue, etc. Way too much hassle just to eat a snack!

Another random post in what seems to be an ever increasing number of random posts! To wrap it up, I would say that if you are going through this surgery and you are concerned about your weight, bear the following in mind (recognising that I am being a hypocrite in writing these tips of course :)

1. Eat healthy, nutritious food!

2. Count your calories; the type of food that you will be eating will be significantly different than your pre-surgery diet and you need to be counting your calories to make sure you have enough to sustain your weight.

3. Recognise that in the immediate period following surgery, eating is not a fun process and so choose your foods carefully. Make all of the effort that goes in to making the meals count :)

4. Blended food tastes just as good as the pre-blended variety! Psychologically, it may seem difficult to eat foods that perhaps pre-surgey you considered should never be blended or put in a liquid form but trust me, there is only so much Carnation or Ensure you can drink in life! The same however is not true where instant pudding is concerned! :)

5. Experiment with food groups and food types (I know, I know, I am being a hypocrite!) and see what you think. There are lots of books and websites that contain many soft foods menu items as well as foods that you can drink. 

As for my diet today, I ate (sucked, slurped, and swallowed) some gourmet sausages in hot dog buns with delicious sides. Obviously I could not bite in to the hot dog but I put it all together and then picked up my knife and fork and cut everything in to tiny,tiny pieces and then ate everything! Rather delicious actually.

For someone who doesn't eat much, I sure do talk about it a lot in this blog!

My jaws  and jaw joint continue to ache continually and the scar tissue is just plain getting on my nerves! You would think they could just cut out the scar tissue or something so it would not bother me anymore. I asked about this but apparently cutting out scar tissue achieves little apart from creating more scar tissue. Makes sense really. I have tried to photograph it but the photographs do not come out very well. You will just have to take my word for it . . .

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Day 46: Drooling, Soft Foods and Bacon

Given that I am no longer banded shut for the most part (apart from the 14 hours a day that I have to wear the bands!) it might seem a strange title for a blog post but humour me for a moment :)

During the past fortnight or so I have been experiencing a drooling sensation; I say sensation because throughout the day, I find myself wiping my mouth a lot, multiple times an hour, because I feel myself drooling down my chin. However, there is never anything there! What is especially freaky is that when I drink and the liquid is in my mouth I swear that I am drooling, I can actually feel it drip down my chin. I go to wipe my mouth and that's right, nothing! Nada. Nothin'. Nerves are just plain strange where this recovery is concerned.

Presumably it is due to the fact that my lips and chin are vacillating between feeling like a block of wood or else tingling incessantly but whatever it is, I am not sure what to call this phase apart from just plain ol' strange.

One final note concerning drooling - you would think that knowing it is simply a drooling apparition I would simply stop wiping my mouth. However, the moment you stop wiping your mouth is the moment you are actually drooling and then people just stare at you thinking, "doesn't he know he is drooling" . . . 

This is what my life is presently; a series of events, some real and some imagined apparently, that culminate in minor (I tell myself) inconveniences that are relatively frustrating. It is always the little things of life that seem to affect you the most. I should add another section to the blog dedicated to the so-called little things that occurred as a result of the surgery. . . .

Moving on, I am discovering that the definition of soft foods can be applied quite liberally. I used to think that my food must literally  be soft and of a mushy or liquid consistency, similar to the mashed potatoes and instant pudding that I have developed an addiction for. Now that my recovery is entering the seventh week almost, I have expanded my definition so that the food:

1. Can be cut up in to very small pieces and fit in to my mouth
2. Can be sucked of all its liquid form
3. Can be swallowed following # 3 above
4. Absolutely will not be chewed or accidentally slip in between my upper and lower teeth. This has happened just once and it really hurt my teeth for numerous days afterwards . . .

Given the above definition, I have started experimenting with some foods; sausages (success), chicken (less successful), ham (definitely not successful), non-mashed potatoes (less successful). I even tried a chocolate M&M but whatever kind of chocolate is used in making M&Ms (cheap kind is my guess!), it is the kind that does not melt in your mouth quickly and as a result it took an absolute age for it to dissolve! Believe me, it so was not worth it!

Final note: I cooked some bacon this evening to be used in a salad that my wife was making (salad, by the way, scored high on the cannot be sucked, slurped, or swallowed category) and let me tell you right now that I love bacon. Always have, ever since a kid. I very rarely however, if ever, eat it nowadays in life but I love the smell and taste of bacon. So there I am cooking the bacon and I was so tempted to put it in my mouth. The trouble is that bacon is a food item that requires significant chewing. As in significant. You cannot suck, slurp, and swallow bacon. All that means is that your eating grease. I know because I tried it :) Not successful. The bacon was spat out. Gross story, I am sorry :)

With this in mind, I am expanding my diet! Do not expect to see instant pudding or mashed potatoes from now on in my daily eating guide! A whole new world has been opened to me :)
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Day 45: Was it worth it . . .

A lot of people ask me whether the surgery was worth it and whether I would choose to undertake such surgery again knowing what I know now. Funnily enough, although a great question, it is genuinely not something I really think about very often.

The primary reason I had this surgery was due to medical necessity rather than any other reason such as confidence, self-esteem, cosmetics, etc. I articulated some of my reasons in the Why section of my blog above and so really, it is not like I had a choice in the matter. That said, apart from the medical rationale, has the surgery affected my self-confidence in that I am not self-conscious about the way I look, absolutely (even with my pudding face!).

Also, I am only six weeks post-op and that means I still experience issues such as facial swelling and communication challenges (talking). Facial swelling affects the way you look and not just in terms of your cheeks but it also affects your nose, your lips, and pretty much everything about your face. The talking issues have been well documented in previous posts but sufficed to say I am not presently talking the same as I did before my surgery!

So even with the continual challenges (which really, are hardly serious), I can definitely say am I very happy that I had the surgery performed; I already see the improvements inside my mouth, my new jaw profile will be great (once it is visible!) and the sleep apnea symptoms I exhibited are non-existent (I have not snored once since the surgery) and I will not suffer any further issues in years to come where my jaws are concerned. So am I pleased and excited, very much so!

Is it an easy surgery to undertake? Absolutely not. Is it difficult? Absolutely in so many ways. Would I do it again... Absolutely. Quite honestly, I should have had it done a decade ago but what can it tell you, the foolishness of youth!

It is actually somewhat amusing because I remember the first consultation I had with my Orthodontist, Dr. Jamey Watson, which took place about 18 months ago. I primarily was visiting with him to see what treatment options were available to at least straighten my teeth.

Prior to speaking with him, I spoke with his assistant and in no uncertain terms I told her that I was not interested whatsoever in surgery as the reality was that I had lived with my jaws, face, and all the respective issues for almost 38 years so what would be the point in having surgery! I considered it to be obviously invasive, expensive, a major inconvenience where work was concerned, as well as a whole myriad of other concerns and issues that I had.

So given my stance on the matter, I talked with Dr. Watson who presented the various options and ultimately, although orthodontia could help in some areas, there was really only one option in his mind to consider and that was a combination of orthodontics and Jaw Surgery.

I obviously knew this but I think really the tipping point for me was that Dr. Watson was excited in how he described the outcome! Seems a strange thing to say but listening to him talk convinced me to at least setup an appointment with an Oral Surgeon. The rest, as they say, is history! :)
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Day 44: Six Week Progress Update

I cannot believe it has been six weeks since my surgery! I have been visiting my surgeon for weekly (sometimes twice a week) visits since my surgery but today marked the end of such visits. Another landmark in my recovery.

I am now back under the care of my Orthodontist and although I was supposed to see him later this week, I have had to postpone the appointment until next week.

So, where do I stand, in terms of recovery, after six weeks? I have listed below the top 12-15 topics or questions that I receive often . .. 

# 1: Bruising: No bruising whatsoever anymore!

# 2: Splint: I don't have one anymore thankfully. RIP as far as I am concerned . . .

# 3: Swelling: My swelling has reached a plateau and I think the swelling that I presently have is here to stay for many a month (as in 18 months according to Dr. Egbert). It is not too bad all things concerning, I just have a larger head than I am used to :)

# 4: Pain Medicine: The only pain medicine that I now take is Ibuprofen and usually I take that in the evenings presently as a result of some rather painful (aching) jaw joints.

# 5: Nerve Issues:  As expected, I still am numb in my chin and have incessant tingling in lips. This is probably the most frustrating part of my recovery to date but again, not a bigee in the whole scheme of things. It feels as if I have been given anesthesia in my chin (think when you last had a tooth extracted) and that is how my chin and lips feel. My lips definitely feel huge as a result!  Numbness is ok, tingling is not.

# 6: Scar Tissue: The scar tissue continues to be an issue and it looks like I will have to have the (non functioning) tooth that is biting on the scar tissue removed in a month or so.

# 7: Chewing: Easy answer - chewing is not allowed and probably will not be for another month apparently!

# 8: Diet: My diet is, well, less than ideal :) My fault I recognise but what can I tell you, I am addicted to ice-cream and instant pudding . . .

# 9: Weight Loss: I am still losing weight despite copious amount of #8 above. So far, I have lost somewhere in the region of 25-27lbs.

#10: Rubber Bands: Still banded shut for 2 hours in the middle of the day and in the evening after 7pm.

#11: Facial Aesthetics: Due to the swelling, I really do not have an idea of how I will look (especially my profile) once all is said and done. Presently, I am not liking my profile (cheeks, lips, and nose) but that is to be expected. Patience is a characteristic we all have to learn I guess . . .

#12: Energy Levels: I am completely back to normal. I will leave the definition of normal open-ended :)

#13: Talking: I am obviously talking different due to the rubber bands, swelling, etc., but I am able to be clearly understood for the most part so it is not an issue. Not necessarily easy to talk, bit again you do what you need to do!

#14: Work / Employment: I returned to work after two weeks which was way too early!

#15: Orthodontia: I am looking forward for the orthodontia work to resume. I am really, really hoping that my Orthodontist's original guesstimate of six months post-surgery for all work to be completed is still accurate. However, I highly imagine that time frame no longer is true but still, I am hoping! I will know more next week so I will update then.

Hopefully this has answered many of your questions! If not, I have updated the photo section of my blog, as well as my FAQ, so take a look and see what you think.
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Day 43: Looking and Sounding Angry . . .

Having your teeth banded shut for many hours a day, especially at work, is an interesting experience. Being banded shut means that although you can talk, you are doing so through closed (clenched) teeth and although you lips are somewhat moving, it is as if you are trying to pursue a career in ventriloquism.

Even worse than the talking issue is that your facial structure apparently projects an image of someone who is angry. Experiment for yourself; in a mirror, clench your teeth together and stat talking, being careful that your teeth do not move once and try to limit the amount that your lips can move also. Try a range of emotions; smiling, laughing (particularly freaky if you ask me), and talking in a normal, everyday manner.

So what did you see; did you see the emotions on your face or did you look and sound, well, angry. My point exactly! At least if I am wearing my bands, people can see them and naturally come to the conclusion that something has happened to my jaws or else something is wrong with me.

Without the bands on my teeth, I can obviously speak easier and you would think that I could talk just like I did before my surgery. However, that would be an incorrect assumption. To be honest, I cannot exactly pinpoint why I cannot talk normally apart from a few observations and guesses.

Firstly, my lips alternate between being numb or else they tingle incessantly. I have likened it to having a tooth out and the feeling your lips experience as a result of anesthesia. So trying to talk with that going on proves problematic, especially for a few sounds or letters (the letter S especially).

Secondly, the inside of my mouth seems cramped, especially around my cheeks and no doubt because of the swelling. This swelling causes my mouth not to open as fluidly as I would like and so when I speak, the sounds and words are not enunciated as they were pre-surgery.

That said, people can understand me just fine, I just sound different than I used to but given the fact I am an Englishman living in America, I already did sound different than everyone else!

I have my last weekly appointment with my surgeon tomorrow which means I have hit the magical six week mark. I will see my Orthodontist later on this week then every 'x' weeks after that. Apparently, where my surgeon is concerned, I will see him in a fortnight and after that every month but in terms of weekly visits, they are no more! :)

How time flies when you have double jaw surgery!
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Day 42: Pudding Face . . .

It is probably my own fault really. After all, many of my friends and family members know that all I eat is instant pudding and so given that my swelling is refusing to decrease and, in fact, has increased over the last week, I should have expected it really. What am I talking about? Well, my new nickname, Pudding Face. A nickname provided, let it be known, by my wife! :)

If you were to look at some of my facial timeframe photographs, you would see what I mean, especially my side profile pictures. It is as if I have 3 or 4 centimeters of a jaw line where you can clearly see my jaw bone. After that however, the jaw line disappears to be replaced by swelling.

The swelling has increased somewhat over the last fortnight because the bands are taken out of my mouth regularly and I talk a whole lot more than I previously have since my surgery. The result is that my jaw joints are exercised and overly don't like it! :) Hence the swelling. It is something that I was told could happen but to be fair even if it had not, my face would still be swollen and as my surgeon told me earlier this week, I can expect to be swollen for up to eighteen months!

The only outward signs that show I had this surgery is the swelling and the fact I still talk funnily as well as the fact I cannot smile in a normal manner! :) I am still wearing my bands and am quite happily to do so as I feel less pain / aches than letting my jaws operate without any supporting bands!

I am quite looking forward to having my Orthodontia work resume later this week I have to say. It is somewhat ironic really that you spend so long having orthodontia work to prepare you for surgery, only for the surgery and the subsequent moving of jaws, to move all of your teeth out of alignment! This results in many, many more months of orthodontia work needed to fix everything once again. I look at my teeth now and I swear they look so much worse than they did 18 months ago when this process began - so many of my teeth are out of alignment!

I do know that he is going to take off all my braces, surgical hooks, wires, etc, and start over with new wires, arch wires, braces, etc., so I should have the fun experience of even more aching teeth! Oh Joy. I will let you know what my Orthodontist tells me later this week.

The tingling sensation continues and shows no sign of going away! My lips in particular feel the worse and especially when the bands are not on my teeth. I will not miss this consequence of surgery let me tell you!

It was such a beautiful day today that we ate BBQ hot dogs for dinner. Yes, that is right, hot dogs! Don't get me wrong, although I ate the hot dog, it was cut up into very small piece and I simply swallowed the pieces without chewing (absolutely no chewing, remember!) but still, it was not instant pudding! You're proud of me I know :)
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Day 41: Dinner Conversation

Having this surgery creates lots of opportunities for conversation. When you consider the fact that in many ways this surgery is kind of unique, you shouldn't be surprised that many people want to ask questions about it. Something about broken jaws fascinate people :)

Really, how many people do you know have had the following performed:

  • Had their bottom jaw broken and moved forward. In my case, a the jaw was moved a whole 18mm which may not sound much but when you consider the average is 5-7mm, you understand that the surgery was no small undertaking.
  • Had their top jaw essentially broken and split into two through the middle. A bone graft was then inserted in to this new space to widen the palette. In terms of how much my upper jaw was widened, a whole 12mm . . . Fun, eh?
  • Had their chin redesigned as a consequence of the movement of the upper and lower jaws as well as for other medical reasons.

Combine this with the rationale as to why such surgery was performed (no, it was not for cosmetic reasons!) and you can see why people are interested in understanding more about the whole process. Typically the conversations focus on one of two aspects of the surgery:

Firstly, the details on how the the jaw bones were broken, what the surgeon did during the surgery, and in particular, how many screws and plates were inserted. People have a fascination with screws and plates. :) Now if you happen to have your x-rays available in person or online - all the better. Adds to the wow factor :)

The second topic that is often discussed is concerned with the actual recovery period; what was the surgery like, was there a lot of pain, how do you eat, when will your huge face decrease, when can you eat steak, when do the bands or wires come out of your mouth, when can you brush your teeth, and a whole lot of random questions that's had not thought about myself!

Basically, one of the consequences of your surgery is that you become a master at the 5-minute story. It isn't that you are being prideful or egotistical but let's be honest, there is a not a whole lot of excitement about having both jaws broken and being able to talk about your experience helps you in your abilities to talk through your teeth, as well as the recuperation benefits of being socially active. It is not fun going through this journey or experience on your own and having a support network is critical and being able to talk about the surgery means you are being social. It is a win-win all around.

Your friends, family, and colleagues are interested in the surgery so so enjoy telling your story!
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Day 40: Slurpilicious Ratings . . .

I like the word slurpilicious, it very much defines whether a particular food can be eaten in my present condition. Given that I am not allowed to chew, food is essentially eaten by putting it in my mouth and slurping the food to the back of my mouth to be swallowed. The easier is it to slurp, the greater the slurpilicious rating a food is given :)

For example, Mac and Cheese is slurpilicious, scrambled eggs are slurpilicious, and ice-cream is definitely slurpilicious. I have a whole list of foods that I consider high on the slurpilicious meter but after dinner this evening I am going to have to classify ham as most definitely, not slurpilicious!

We had dinner with friends this evening and there was a lot of delicious food it is fair to say but obviously there is an issue in that I am not allowed to chew. So, I experiment; I cut up the food in to very small pieces and try and eat it. Remember, by eating, I mean slurping. Maybe sucking  is more accurate but whatever it is, it definitely is not chewing.

I made the mistake (completely not my fault please note) last week of putting some food in my mouth that found its way between my teeth. I didn't know this and closed my mouth. Ouch. I am guessing this is why they do not want me to chew as genuinely my teeth hurt for days afterwards and it was only a little piece of food . . .

So last night I was careful to only eat soft foods but the ham was calling my name. After all, there is only so much instant pudding a person can consume in their life and I have eaten enough over the last month for three or four people! So I cut it up into very small pieces and put it in my mouth. I then tried slurping but nothing happened. It was stuck there and had to be fished out with my fingers. So there you have it, ham will not be making it on to my slurpilicious list anytime soon :)

On to more normal subjects; my jaws hurt a lot this today! I had a long day where I was speaking a lot, and combine that with our dinner this evening, my jaws are feeling it presently. Probably doesn't help that for most of the day that my bands were off also (oops).

My swelling feels like it has increased but as I mentioned the other day, only on the right side of my face. I much prefer having my bands on as it genuinely does not hurt as much, even given the inconvenience where talking is concerned . . .
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Day 39: Brace Face . . .

You would think after 39 days that I would be quite comfortable with my braces, surgical hooks, top arch wire, and not to mention rather a lot of rubber bands in my mouth. I mean, I was comfortable. Very much so in fact. But not today for some reason.

I think it was probably due to the fact that I was quite excited earlier in the week, knowing that I would not have to wear my bands much during the day and only have to wear them in the evening.

However, given that I now I have to wear them again for 16+ hours a day and the fact that they are rather tight to say the least, especially around my back teeth, it feels like I have just had braces put on my teeth once again! Even after just two days, my talking seems to be affected - talking today felt like week 2 post-surgery in terms of talking ability! :)

The positive side of this however is that my lower jaw is not moving and it seems to be in the correct place; my surgeon showed me where my teeth are supposed to be aligned so as to make sure they are not drifting and I found myself checking a lot today in the mirror. I also seem to check the inside of  mouth and the scar tissue. I know, I know, I am a sad individual!

If only I could take a picture of myself with one hand moving my mouth and the other hand holding a super bright flashlight, shining it my mouth to see what is going on!

Do you ever find yourself writing something about your day and in particular something that you did during the day and wonder to yourself, why did you do that? Well, I just had that thought . . .

My swelling seems, strangely enough, to have increased in just the last few days. Only on my right side of my face however. I thought it was just the angle I was looking at but then I spent time looking and asking a few people and sure enough, I am now the owner of a lopsided face. It really is good that things like this happen otherwise what else would I write about!?

Given that I think this qualifies as the most bizarre and random blog post I have posted to date, I will end with another random post; I asked my surgeon about this but somehow we changed subjects so I have no answer just in case you are wondering. Basically whenever my bands are taken off, my lips become super tingly and it feels like I have an intense tingling sensation around my lips. It feels like I have just had my dentist inject me with a numbing medicine. When the bands are put back on, my lips return to being numb and experience little tingling. Why would this happen?

Finally, I attempted to make another frittata this evening and I like to think I am a pretty good cook but let's just say that my attempt was not as aesthetically pleasing as the one that my wife made; definitely looked a tad more brown than the one I ate earlier this week and it was not quite as put together but still, it tasted great and it felt like real food. For dessert, I had instant pudding of course! :)
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Day 38: Questions and Getting Old . . .

My teeth ache a lot today. Given that I am once again banded shut you would expect that I would be used to the aches and pains but the placement of the new bands is such that they are pulling on teeth that have not previously not been banded

The bands are stretching all the way to the back of my mouth on the last surgical hook on either side of my lower jaw. They then stretch to the front of my teeth on my upper jaw. The result is that my back teeth feel like they are being pulled out! They definitely are keeping my jaws from drifting however so I should to complain too much. Let me just say here that I think I am pretty good at getting my bands on and off presently but it is sooo difficult getting the bands to hook on to the new surgical hook at the back of my mouth. . .

In talking with my surgeon yesterday, I had my usual weekly list of questions as they relate to my recovery. Where some of the questions are concerned, I was pretty sure I already knew the answers but I just wanted to make sure I knew what to expect . . .

Swelling and Facial Profile
In terms of my profile and the fact it looks rather flat compared with my pre-surgery profile, it will look that way for quite some time until my swelling disappears. I always knew that I would be swollen for up to a year, but my surgeon told me that "given my age" he expects it will take up to 18 months for my swelling to disappear!

Firstly, what on earth does he mean, my age, that makes me sound old! Wow, that is the first time in my life that someone has called me old to my face and said that my age is now affecting how I will recover. I mean, you only say something like that when you are talking about your aged parents or grandparents! I am not even 40!

Secondly, 18 months having a chipmunk face and a flat side profile. Beautiful. Cannot get better than that now can it!? That genuinely seems like a rather long time to look like a chipmunk don't you think.The swelling obviously affects the way your face looks; your cheeks, nose, chin, everything is affected. Just like if you add a lot of weight or even lose a lot of weight, it changes the way you look. Exactly the same where swelling is concerned.

Chewing Schedule
Typically you can start chewing at the sixth week mark but I wondered about the chewing schedule, what kinds of foods should you start with, when can you progress to different food groups, etc.

Given that my jaws are drifting (see yesterday's post) I am no longer allowed to start chewing next week :( Instead, I have to wait until my jaws and teeth are stable which he imagines will be a month or so away. So no chewing for a month or until I get to go ahead from him. Ah well, what can you do . . .

For anyone who has ever had braces, you know how amazing the waterpik is! Sine my surgery, I have not been able to use it to clean my teeth (bands, cannot open mouth wide enough, sensitive teeth, etc) but I now have permission to use it again, yay!!!!! :)

That was about it really, just a few questions as many of my other questions were essentially deferred given that my bands will remain on for a little bit longer . . .
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Day 37: Setback, Drifting, and Frittata . . .

I met with the oral surgeon today for my weekly visit; the fifth weekly visit is a bit of a milestone as it means that I now only have to wear my bands for two hours in the middle of the day and then in the evening from seven o'clock onwards! However, things didn't quite work out that way . . .

My scar tissue is still in a place where I am constantly biting it as well as my cheek (gross) and honestly, try biting your cheek every time you talk or eat. Not fun. At all. Dr. Egbert looked at it and essentially the issue is the back (no functioning) molar that simply doesn't have space given the fact that my lower jaw was moved so far forward.

It is interesting because when I am banded shut, my jaws are actually in perfect alignment and obviously I do not bite down on my cheeks and scar tissue. When the bands are off, however, my lower jaw is essentially floating although strong enough is not stabilised enough and so the jaws are not sitting in alignment and hence I am biting my cheek. Does this make sense?

How about this: Basically, when the bands are on and the jaws are aligned, I do not bite my cheek as they close and open where they are supposed to. When the bands are off, my jaw drifts and consequently I end up biting my cheeks because they do not close where they are supposed to. That better? The truth of the matter is that I actually prefer wearing my bands presently rather than having them off due to the biting and aching that I have have been experiencing . . .

The solution? There are two options. The first option, and the one we are trying presently, is to band my teeth so that my jaws stay in alignment and will not drift. The Orthodontist will be able to move my teeth but obviously my jaws need to stay in position. So instead of wearing my bands for just two hours, I now have to band them shut for four hours in the middle of the day instead of two as well as early evening onwards.

If banding them does not stabilise the jaws, the next option will be to extract the non-functioning molar. In reality, the tooth is no doing anything as it does not bite down on any other teeth due to my jaw being moved forward so it really will not matter. Still, what a hassle. We will give it a month and see if things improve before making a decision on the tooth. Stay tuned.

Final item: As you know, my diet is less than ideal but today I ate great, tasty food! My wife made me a frittata and it was soooo tasty; slurpilicious, healthy, balanced, contains fruit and vegetables and it felt like I actually ate food. As in real food. As in food I ate before my surgery (without the chewing of course).  

Ahhhh, the good ol' days before surgery . . .
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Day 36: Weight Control, Calories, and Mashed Potatoes

Where a balanced diet is concerned, it is fair to say that I really have not had one since my surgery! It is actually rather debatable whether I had a balanced diet prior to surgery but that is another matter :)

Many people ask me about whether I have lost weight as a result of being banded shut for the last month and the answer is, yes I have, but the reality is that if you have had this surgery the you need to make a concerted effort to watch your caloric intake to ensure that you don't lose weight. That is what the brochure says anyway!

However, my experiences where eating is concerned are these:

  • Immediately after surgery (the dreaded first week) I had absolutely no appetite or desire to eat. Syringing food was actually easier than I thought but towards the end of week 1 and during week 2 the tube really irritated my throat and apart from hot food (soup) I really did not eat much. I didn't want to eat.
  • Being banded shut makes drinking your food rather laborious to say the least. As in, laborious. A liquid diet is just that, liquid. Food should not be in liquid form for two+ weeks. Your body does not appreciate it in sooo many ways . . .
  • Once I was able to take my bands off, eating obviously became easier. Although being forbidden to chew and consequently having to gum or suck your very soft foods results in very experiences. Not good experiences necessarily please note.
  • I have read many similar blogs and forums where people who have had this surgery actually eat normal foods and meals. One question, how? Sure, you could blend everything but people talk about eating pasta, cheese, fruit. They must have had a different surgery than me. Either that I was, and am, just incredibly inept at sucking food so that it is edible. 
  • Splints are the biggest impediment and obstacle to eating. Ever. Food + splint = not fun.
  • Given that you are allowed to take your bands off for a limited amount of time, you have to maximise that time. For example, the first week I could only take my bands off for fifteen minutes so if I experimented with new foods and it didn't work out (read one of my posts) then I was not eating. Go with what you know. Boring, even predictable, but at least I was eating!
  • Do you know how time consuming it is in the beginning to take off your bands, drink and slurp your food, and then have to brush your teeth with a baby toothbrush, swill mouthwash in a mouth that barely opens and then somehow spit it out when you have a splint and cannot get your tongue out of your mouth!? Nope, didn't think so. So who want to go through all of that just to eat some instant banana pudding. Hence the weight loss . . .
  • Now that I am week 4 post-op and my bands are off for eight hours a day, I have time to experiment with foods. I am no longer eating mashed potatoes everyday you will be glad to hear although I have yet to kick the instant pudding addiction. That will be a hard addiction to kick :)
  • I was a slacker and didn't count my caloric intake everyday.  Ever. Waaayyyy to much work and a hassle I didn't need after surgery. I ate when I felt like it and didn't when I didn't. That simple. The result? Like I said, not exactly a balanced diet and I have lost weight (20+ lbs so far).
  • I learned that I ate way too much food before surgery. I simply ate too much food that I did not need to eat. 
  • Once I am eating normally again (whatever normal is) the weight will come back on I am sure.
So there you have it, my observations on eating. To eat means to chew. I cannot chew. So what do I do? I slurp, I suck, and I gum my food.My foods are getting more adventurous and I think I am probably reaching my caloric intake goal. Progress indeed.

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