I recently came across a photo I posted on Facebook ten years ago. I took the photo on Photo Booth ten days before getting jaw surgery. It’s clear in the photo how prominent my lower jaw was in front of my upper jaw. I had a mouth full of braces, that’s why I’m not smiling. I look at this photo and I can feel the anxiety and anticipation of what’s to come.
While I had talked to a few people about their experience with jaw surgery and the surgeons told me what to expect, I went in pretty unaware of the reality of getting jaw surgery. I got fluid in my lungs when they were pulling the ventilator out and I had to be on oxygen for a month (I have COPD from being born three months early so fluid in my lungs quite difficult). My jaw was numb for 2/3 months after my jaw surgery. I still don’t have feeling on one side of my chin. My mom had to blend up potatoes and chicken broth so I would come down for dinner. I survived on smoothies for a while.
After my jaw surgery, I wasn’t taught how to move my jaw. I spent the eight years with so much tension in my jaw because I was scared to move it and mess something up. Then I developed TMJ and had to go to physical therapy. The physical therapist taught me how to move my jaw and relax the muscles in my jaw and neck. He said everyone who has jaw surgery should be sent to PT after they’re healed to learn how to move their jaw properly so they’re not as stiff as I was.
Earlier this year, I had to get a root canal on a tooth that had died. The root of the tooth had become a sliver of its former self. My dentist told me this can happen 10-15 years after surgery. Another thing I didn’t know could happen because of jaw surgery. Luckily, the tooth wasn’t hurting at all. Although, I was warned I had to have this root canal because if I lost the tooth, it would mess up my jaw and all the work that was put into getting it the way it is. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
While there have been some unexpected detours after the fact, I’m grateful I had jaw surgery. I can speak cleary. I feel more comfortable. After learning how to move my jaw, I’m able to eat on both sides of my mouth. It was a very difficult summer of healing but it was so worth it.