Jaw Journal

8 weeks, and all is well…err, mostly.

Well, it has officially been over 8 weeks since my surgery. I apologize that I left many of you hanging, without a new post for 5 of those 8 weeks. 😐 There have been no disasters, and I am not buried in a pit of depression or pain or despair. I’ve very simply been…well, busy living life with a new jaw.

I went back to work during week three, and managed to make it through my days relatively well. I would work in the mornings, go home for a nap, and then work from home in the evenings. That lasted about a week, and then I was back full-time (for the most part).

It took about a month for the anesthesia to leave my system, I think. I felt pretty fuzzy and weary for a good four weeks after surgery. But then one morning, exactly a month after surgery, actually, I woke up and just felt better. I didn’t feel as groggy, and I could concentrate better than before. It was a wonderful feeling!

Sadly, my weeks of Anesthesia Brain caused me to forget a LOT of my training at work. I felt like I had to ask all of the questions I’d already gotten answers to before surgery all over again. Thank goodness for my generous and patient co-workers!

About six weeks after surgery, I was able to open my mouth about 30 mm, and was back to eating my normal, pre-surgery soft food diet. However, I started waking up with a lot of pain, feeling like I’d been clenching my teeth all night. My surgeon have me a muscle relaxer, which helped a lot. But I also started experiencing some instability in my joint that is a bit disconcerting. I’m hearing popping, and it will lock occasionally, and generally feels pretty tired and tender all the time. Not the most thrilling reality.

However, my surgeon explained that my back teeth were purposefully left not touching when they set my jaw in the operating room. He said that, if my jaw were to settle differently than expected, then the natural thing would be for it to close down in the back. If my teeth were already touching back there when it closed down, then my bite would open up again…thus negating my surgery completely.

SO, they left my teeth apart in the back. And 7 weeks after surgery, those back molars still weren’t touching–which was a good thing. However, my doctors believe that my joint started freaking out as my muscles healed and became more limber. For the last few years, my brain and jaw has known only that my back teeth touch. Suddenly, my brain and jaw realized those back teeth weren’t touching anymore, and they went into Old School Cope Mode….meaning my jaw has been dislocating again in an attempt to get my back teeth back together.

My orthodontist gave me the option of either stopping my current treatment for a while to get me into a mouthpiece and give my joint time to settle down, OR to continue treatment, risking more pain temporarily, and start wearing rubber bands on my back braces to begin closing my bite in the back.

I chose temporary pain and continuing treatment.

So I have been suffering from more regular pain again lately…popping, locking, headaches and migraines. But I am hopeful that as my bite closes more, the pain will subside. I wear rubber bands on my teeth 24 hours a day now, and have not suffered any popping or locking since I put them on. I take them off to eat, though, and if I forget to put them on right away, I do notice my jaw starting to ache and my bite starting to change.

I’m not sure what all of this means, but I’m trying not to lose hope too much. I always told myself to expect at least a year of continued pain before deciding it is all hopeless and I’ll be in pain forever. So, at two months post-op, I’m not anywhere near that one-year mark yet. I’m trying to be patient, and continuing to take muscle relaxers and ibuprofen as needed.

I promise I will share X-rays and before/after photos soon! I’m saving all of that for when I get my braces off, though…so by “soon,” I mean “in a few months.” 🙂

In the meantime, here’s what I look like today!