I am a woman on a mission to share my experiences and to help others who may be going through issues relating to facial pain, facial deformity, TMJ disorder and jaw/orthognathic surgery.
This blog takes you through my journey of facial pain, wrong diagnoses by doctors and orthognathic surgery. Along with this, I provide helpful check sheets, useful tips and leaflets. Feel free to message me or add me on twitter. Always happy to help if I can :) @jawandface
So it's 5 whole years since my surgery. Yay! This
year particularly has been a largely reflective time for me. Lots of changes
and endings. Lots of repeating patterns and destructive thought processes. It's
been a long old journey. Sometimes I wonder whether it's time to pack this all
in. To finally close the book on my orthognathic journey. Although the surgery
was a huge success in so many ways, there are still a great many things I
struggle with. My journey certainly didn't end after orthognathic surgery.
One of the main findings to come out of this year
is the whole sinus infection issue. After suffering terribly with constant
reoccurring sinus infections after my first surgery, I had both my upper and
lower plates removed. This was in hope that it would ease the pain and muscle
spasms on my bottom jaw and ease the sinus congestion and constant infections
related to my upper jaw. Unfortunately, although the surgery helped with my
breathing and nasal drainage it did not resolve the sinus infections 100%. They
were definitely less frequent after surgery, but I still experience nasal
congestion daily and sinus infections once - twice every 3 months.
I went to see an ear, nose and throat doctor
before having my plates removed and he suggested another surgical procedure.
But as you all know I am not willing to go through any more surgery, so I
refused. In January this year a 6 year leak was discovered at my mother’s
house. A lazy plumber had not installed the pipework correctly and the waste
water pipe from the boiler was unconnected to the waste pipe. As a result, over
the 6 years water and waste dish water had been seeping into the floor and
under the foundations of the house. The leak was fixed, but the moisture, mould
and damaged floor was not. The housing association finally got around to
sending a surveyor, who proposed a list of works; repointing, walls stripped
and replastered, floor brought up and dried out and mould treated. They then
discovered asbestos tiles throughout the downstairs living area and promptly
stopped all work. It was then when they all disappeared. We couldn’t get hold
of anyone. The housing officer, the surveyor, the workmen, the maintenance
department, no one.
The air is thick with mould. My eyes constantly
itch and burn and my nose feels like I’ve just jumped into a swimming pool. My
brother has had flu like symptoms for months and my mother’s asthma is
terrible. The house we had worked so hard to make nice was now ruined. The
mould started making its way upstairs to my brother’s room, the airing cupboard
and the bathroom. We moved all of his clothes into my room. We continued to
call, write and email the housing association, but nothing. I took it upon
myself to message the MP who was fabulous again and wrote to the housing
directors immediately. Another 2 weeks went by and nothing. I email the
directors myself, the tweet the CEO@Steve_Howlett, write to the MP again and the
Ombudsman. More people have arrived to survey the house and disappeared again.
I really don’t know what to do. The mould report says it all.
So anyway, after that long story, we now believe that after years of suffering, pain, high temperatures, shivering and having to take constant antibiotics that this leak may be the cause of my sinus issues. Something that could have been completely avoided if someone had done their job properly. Look what negligence can do. To make matters worse Peabody are in no hurry to rectify the problem and in fact lied and told the MP, the ombudsman and environmental health that the problem has been fixed. Oh to be a millionaire and leave the UK!
This year, like all the others since my operation has been a step forward. I now have a steady stream of money and clients and I am becoming more confident in myself and my abilities. I have had the opportunity to work for myself and explore different areas of work I had never thought of. For example, I have fallen in love with online marketing. If it wasn’t for the operation I would be working in H&S or HR for some corporation somewhere.
On the flip side I have also had to wrestle hard with myself. I get negativity thrown at me all the time and I take it very personally. I hate myself and constantly pick holes in anything I have done. Be it a lost word during a telephone conversation, a spelling mistake on an email or forgetting to do something. I know no one is perfect, but with my medication and pain, I really have to concentrate extra hard on everything I do. So when it doesn’t go 100% right, I beat myself up for it. Why put in all this effort to mess it up anyway?
I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that I am 28 and miles behind others my age and so far away from where I thought I’d be. I take comfort in that fact that this time two years ago, I didn’t think I would ever be able to work again. Constant pain and fatigue made it impossible for me to even go to the shops or see my friends. I still have pain every day and I get awful face and head migraines but these are less frequent now. 2-3 times a week, on a good week. I can sit at an office chair for 7 hours now and not have to go home to sedate myself with powerful pain relief. I still take the pain relief but a lot less. 2-4 co-codomol 30/500mg, ibuprofen 400mg x 3 and 20mg amitriptyline daily. I have sumitriptan nasal sprays and diazepam for really bad days. It would be nice to think that by this time next year I will be able to write and tell you that the medication has all gone and I am pain free at last. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that one!
My assessment for King’s College body dysmorphia clinic has finally arrived. I have that booked for the 5th September. My mum can’t come with me, so my brother has agreed to. I shall let you all know how I get on. Hopefully, this will be the missing piece in the psychological part of my recovery. I have waited for this appointment for almost 2 years now. In that time, I have only seen my psychiatrist and psychologist at King’s 6x. I know I need to work on this side of me. I know this inner bully needs to be quietened down and I need to be less scared of the world. I need to learn to love myself and to believe the good comments and ignore the bad. I am always waiting for someone to validate my self-hatred. When they do, that is it, nothing else matters. All the negative feelings of hate and fear come rushing back. Stef you are a freak, you are ugly, you have put on weight, you are unlovable, everyone you love leaves, you won’t ever have what you want. Look at that chin, that fat, you are stupid, you are pathetic and weak, you have to rely on other people, just give it up, it will make the world a better place. I suppose some of these are normal, in moderation, but this is all consuming for me. These are my 10 commandments. These are the demons I face every time I leave the front door, answer the phone, speak to someone. It is always there looking over my shoulder waiting for someone or something to back it up. And for the most part people have no problem making that happen for me.
Have that for a deviated chin! Sure many will hate seeing this picture!
Be it a spiteful comment at work, your partner lying to you, your friend letting you down or just some silly troll online. There is enough hate in the world and I refuse to join these people or to stop helping people who need it.
Well this went a bit dark. So finally, for now, I shall finish by writing a little bit about plate removal surgery. I have had a lot of people message me recently about removing their plates. It is completely common practice in places like Switzerland to have your plates removed after a year. The only reason it is not common practice in the UK is because it costs money. Personally, I am all for removing the plates after a year. It is much more natural and stops future issues with bone growth over the plate sites. Furthermore, you may find that like me, your jaw movement and breathing gets a lot better once the plates are removed. Many people have a horrible time with orthognathic surgery and this puts them off suggesting plate removal surgery. However, plate removal surgery is a lot easier and a lot less painful. Even people who have had their plates removed 12 years after surgery can tell you this.
Plate removal surgery is day surgery and all work will be done inside your mouth. You will be sore after surgery and maybe a little numb from the stretching, but nothing like the original surgery. My surgeon said I could go back to a normal diet after a couple of days but I stayed on soft food for 1 month after the plate removal to allow the bones to properly heal and for me to build my facial muscle strength. A lot of people do not have the same pain and or problems with muscles tearing as I do, so this step would be totally irrelevant for you. You can go back to work and resume normal activity as soon as you can.
Pain of orthognathic surgery 10
Pain of plate removal surgery 6
Average pain levels for me
Pain level on a good day 3
Pain level on a bad day 6
This time last year, I dyed my hair red to celebrate my transformation and achievement and this year I make a vow to myself. To be honest and to work on myself. To stop cutting everyone out and to really try to love me and everything I have achieved. As always I send my love and strength and hope that this blog continues for many years to come.
I’m tired of people who don’t understand. I’m tired of pain. I’m tired of seeing people I love struggle. I’m just tired. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The day after I found out my godmother has cancer, I felt compelled to blog. My godmother has been there from the day I was born. She lived 2 doors down from us and has been a trusted family friend and guardian for many years. She has had a hard life. Her daughter hasn't been well, she lost her son at a young age, then her amazing husband (our godfather) and most recently and without warning her lifelong best friend. I supposed after all of that hurt, her body has finally had enough.
Times like this really put things into perspective. You start reflecting on your own life and your own decisions. You start to come to your senses and remember that really, right now, in this moment, is all we have. This can be quite scary. There is no real past or future, just now. I worry about the mortality and the health of people around me. Not in a selfish way, but because I want the best for them and I don't want them to suffer.
Currently my mum and brother are living in a house that has 6 years of waste water under the floors. The kitchen fitters forgot to connect the waste water pipe in the kitchen and as a result all of the water from the sink and washing machine has been gushing under the floors and the foundations for the past 6 years. Mould is starting to form everywhere and to make matters worse the floor under our laminate is asbestos. My mum, brother and I have been so ill. Skin and eye irritation, breathing difficulties, flu like symptoms and nasal congestion. The housing association are dragging their heels. They think that they can come in; lift the lower floors and strip the walls while we live there. It's killing my mum and brother as it is, without releasing it into the air. Mould is toxic and can cause cancer and asbestos can kill you. Mum is so tired from work and family dramas that she just doesn't have the time or the fight left in her. She is the tenant so only she can deal with it all.
Just when we thought everything was going ok, it all falls apart again. It's disappointing to say the least. I just want her and Fraser to be happy and healthy. I don't want her to struggle, no more than I want my godmother or anyone I love. Life and people can be so unkind.
Work has been hectic and I’ve really neglected my loved ones. I worry and have such high levels of anxiety on a daily basis that this mood of fear is all that I am. I'm a worrier. That's what I do and have always done. My threat system is on constant high alert and the inner bully in me cannot wait to attack and beat me down. I’ve managed to back myself into such a position that I feel like I am trapped and can’t breathe. The hours fly by and I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it is. I'm a total zombie with very few feelings other than fear, worry, exhaustion, anger or in-difference.
A lot has changed over the past few months and it’s all starting to take its toll on me. Having multiple issues and daily medication makes full time work really difficult. I feel like a lot of the medication (especially sumitryptan) dumbs me down and makes it hard for me to concentrate.
I know my pain levels are often made worse by stress levels but sometimes it's just from over doing it. I'm weak. To the point where I struggle to lift a 500g tub of butter. It physically hurts to lift a 500ml bottle. Doing so puts pressure on my arms, back and neck and in turn causes my jaw and face to hurt.
Don't get me wrong, it is a lot better than a few years back when I couldn't stand for more than 2 mins and my mother had to physically lift my head off of the pillow or the back of the chair. I have a lot more freedom of movement. But it still isn't anywhere what I would class as "normal".
I've also picked up a terrible habit of biting my bottom inside lip when I'm feeling stressed or anxious. Which is practically all the time at the moment. As I can't feel it due to numbness, I bite away until it bleeds. Some weird form of self torture, I suppose. But all this pushing and pulling also puts pressure on my joints.
I'm still getting the optical pain caused by the pressure around the neck muscles but this has eased off somewhat since the spring equinox. For those who are interested; the NHS have been doing trials for some time looking to find relationships between cluster migraines and the moon cycles. Having suffered from migraine and nerve pain for over 5 years I can definitely see a difference in the pressure of my head and face before and after the Autumn and Spring Equinox. This could be due to the warmer brighter weather or there might be some truth in the theory of the moon cycles affecting our pain. They control the tides and we are made up of approx 65% water, so why isn't it possible that the moon can affect us?
On another note I tried Bowen for the first time last week. Bowen is a relatively new therapy created by the Australians in the 1950's. Unlike deep tissue massage this treatment uses light movements and is mainly concerned with dealing with the fascia. Fascia is the band or sheet of connective tissue and primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilises, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. It links to the whole nervous system.
Each session typically involves gentle rolling motions along the muscles, tendons, and fascia. The therapist then pauses between each physical intervention to allow the body to reset and adapt to the treatment. The appointment takes around 1 hour.
During my session I could feel a slight sting around the area that had been manipulated and then I had quite a few involuntary muscle twitches around my body. This was not unpleasant and the whole experience was actually quite relaxing. After my appointment I was advised to rest and continue with medication and normal exercise (which is non-existent). I was advised not to take really hot or cold showers or baths and to drink plenty of water. I have been to one appointment so far so I am yet to see if it helps my pain levels. I shall update you in due time.
In summery I just want to say, although you may be tired and in pain and feel like no one truly understands, you are loved and valued and by just reading and gaining knowledge you can help so many people. All of the treatments, drugs and struggles, they all help to inform and treat other people. Many of times I've been on the edge of breaking down and giving up and one nice word from a kind heart is all it takes to snap me out of it.
We don't know how long we are going to be here and it's ok to be a little bit selfish. You have to help yourself and take time for you. You are imperfectly perfect and I hope that when you read this you understand that you mean something to me. By reading, sharing, learning or commenting on my content, you are allowing for me to grow and for others to connect with you. I can't always answer all of the questions but you have taken the time to reply and share your knowledge and experiences with my readers. It's so brave and I admire you all.
It’s always great when things go right but I have always
expected the worse. I suppose this pessimistic view comes from years of
experiencing constant failures and let downs. I do not want this to be a woe me
moment or even a poor Steffie moment. I want this to be an authentic view of
the world through my eyes. The eyes of someone who doctors would say has
depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and body dysmorphia.
As many of you know I have undergone quite a transformation
over the past 6 years. A rollercoaster of emotions, fears and loss. Loss of
people close to me, loss of my job, my career, my house, my friendships, my
family, my old face and my identity. I speak to a lot of people online, girls
and boys, old and young and we all have the same fear going into this
operation. What if after all of this I don’t like my new face? What happens if
the reflection in the mirror isn’t what we hoped to see?
The sad truth of the matter is, there are lots of people who
go through with this surgery with the explicit intent of making their face look
better. Yes, that would be a great bonus to finally be aesthetically pleasing
to people for once in your life but I really feel that this should not be the
primary focus when having the operation. I say this from experience. You will
never be 100% happy with your reflection because you are looking for the
negatives. While I post up selfies in a vain attempt to make the world like and
accept me, I see clear as day the bump in my nose, the way it slightly bends to
one side, I see the asymmetry of my jaw line and how long and masculine my chin
looks. And no I don't need some helpful person to point that out to me thank you! I dream to look like the tanned perfectly petite models with long
eyelashes and flawless figures but I know I am far from that.
Why do we all want to aspire to the norm? Surely the thing
that makes our species so amazing is how unique we are? The different skin
colours, the hair types, eye colours, the shape of our bodies, our height and
even our jawlines. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just accept ourselves
for who we are? There is so much more to beauty than a pretty face but society
makes us forget that. Instead we all just get in line and try to clone
ourselves. To make matters worse we are
a cruel bunch and there are many people out there who would line up to tell you
exactly what is wrong with you. In the age of social media we have nowhere to
hide. Even if you don’t post pictures yourself, you can bet at some party or
event somewhere your picture would have been taken and it will be online
somewhere. Why is it so important for us to fit it? To be normal and not to
embrace our oddities. Our wonky nose, our one bent tooth, our weak jawline?
Maybe after we fix all the flaws we are still unhappy and miserable? I always
consider Michael Jackson and the self-hatred he must have had for himself to
what to change his face completely? Why do we torture ourselves?
Most of us have been told from a very young age that there
is something wrong with our face or our bite and we need to get it fixed when
we are older. As we grow up and develop we become more conscious of our
differences and all other manner of insecurities start to surface. As a young
impressionable teenager we have magazines, Instagram profiles and television
thrown at us. Shoving down our necks how we should live, what we should wear,
how we should behave and what we should look like. Anyone who doesn’t fall into
line and at least aspire to meet perfection is a weirdo or a misfit. A total social
outcast rebelling against the natural order of things. Living in modern society
is difficult and if you are already damaged/deformed you are not going to make
matters worse by trying to be an individual or trying to draw attention to
yourself. We want to fade into the background or slowly drift along the stream
with all the other ducks and not be singled out or ridiculed. I spent a lot of
my teenage years doing this and trying to fit in that I never really had the
opportunity to find out who I really was. I never gave myself the opportunity
to express my opinion or explore what I liked.
I visiting the hospital not long ago. I am in pain every day
of my life and struggle to function on the pain and nerve medications. I get
frustrated because my brain is slower and I cannot communicate as well as I
once could. I cannot maintain concentration or retain large amounts of
information like I once did. I struggle to grip things and I cannot lift, sit,
stand or walk for any period of time without feeling a huge amount of pain. I
get tired easily and my neck and face cease up. It gets worse in the winter. As
soon as the temperature drops a couple of degrees my muscles spasm up and I am
left in huge amounts of pain. I try to control it with heat packs and layers of
clothes but I struggle when it comes to showering and drying off.
I constantly blame myself for my imperfections and illness
and sabotage my happiness because I don’t particularly like myself. I often
question if it is all worth it and what contribution a deformed and defective
woman could add to the world. I have night terrors and I suffer from panic
attacks. I rarely go out alone and if I do, I am on such high alert that I use
my quota of adrenalin and am completely exhausted. People who do not have these
fears or anxieties will never understand what that feeling is, but I know many
of my spoonies will comprehend. It’s not even the pain that gets me down the
most, it is the inability to do things for myself. To be a normal functioning
human being. I have contemplated suicide on a few occasions but the only thing
that holds me back is that I don’t want to be selfish and hurt my mum.
Otherwise I would have given up a long time ago.
Anyway I have gone way off track. At the hospital
appointment my psychologist and I were talking about my core beliefs and why I
feel the way I do and she asked me; “so who is Stefanie? And what does this
person like? What brings her happiness and enjoyment?”. Dead silence came over
the room and it was then that I realised, I can’t love or like a person I don’t
even know. Who the hell am i? and what do I like?
I have spent my life being a people pleaser and doing things
that I thought would make people happy. I went to university because I thought
that would make my dad love me. I thought that I would get a little more
respect at my workplace. I started working in HR and Auditing because I wanted
to have enough money to look after my mum and brother and to make my dad proud.
I worked 3 jobs as well as full time university because I wanted to look after
my family and please my boyfriend at the time. I used to go out for meals and
shopping with my friend because she was unwell and had nothing else to do. Even
though I was in pain and had very little money. I also went to the pubs and
clubs because I wanted to make her happy even though I completely hated going
to a place where drunk people could point out my face and make rude comments. So when in amongst all that people pleasing
was I happy? And when did I have time to grow and develop as an individual?
A lot of people have told me to be more selfish but I still
find this hard because of the guilt I feel when I say no. This isn’t because it
is something I should be doing, but it is because I don’t value myself enough
to believe that I deserve anything good.
4 years on from surgery and I was given my final chance to
get the genioplasty from the NHS. I never wanted my operation to be about my
looks so I said no. But thinking back to it now, it is probably another way for
me to keep bullying myself and believing I don’t deserve to be free of this
issue. I am wise enough to know that a million operations will not fix the
issues I have with my face or my looks. And I am also wise enough to know that
I need to start looking after myself and discovering who I really am, away from
family, colleagues or friends. So how do I plan to find myself and my identity?
Silly as I sounds I started a Pinterest board in secret and
I started looking online for things I liked. I went and got some holiday
brochures and newspapers and I started to put together some ideas about things
I like. I moved away from the blog for a while and made some adjustments in my
life. I made a choice to be more loving to myself and to treat myself right. I
started to paint my nails and wear a little bit of make up to make myself feel
better. I looked for a new massage therapist and I started reading again. I
really got out of my comfort zone and taught myself how to create a WordPress
website. I set up as a self-employed freelance PA and met some new people. I
wrote letters to the people who had hurt me and I burned them in a bucket in
the back garden. I forgave people who had wronged me and I removed negative
people and users from my life. Then I distanced myself from everyone in my
family apart from mum and Fraser. My
brain really did not want to do any of this. The fear and self-sabotage made me
feel tense and uncomfortable every single day. But I tried to push through it.
There were tears and days where I couldn’t pick myself up or function and there
were days where I felt like I was really making progress.
Things will never be 100% on the health or pain front but I
hope that in time I will gather more confidence in myself and rid myself of the
anxiety I feel every day. I suppose what
I am trying to say is “be you” and be who you want to be. Don’t feel like you
have to fade into the background or please anyone else. You are living your
life and everyone is unique, special and beautiful in their own way. Don’t feel
disheartened or like your imperfect because good people don’t see that. They
see your beauty both inside and out. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and move
towards loving yourself, flaws and all. You will be much happier for it. The
answer is never going to appear at the end of a surgeon’s knife. The answer is
Swelling is an increase in the size or a change in the shape of an area of the body. It is caused by the accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the body. With the combination of broken bones and damaged capillaries, it is inevitable that you will experience some swelling after surgery. However, one of the most shocking issues people talk about after surgery is the level of swelling. While some patients become a little puffy cheeked, other patients swell up like bowling balls.
The first few days after surgery the sight of your face in the mirror can be quite distressing. You may even look at yourself and think “what did they do to me”? It is not uncommon to have swelling in the whole of your face and neck area. The swelling should peak by day 3 and then start to slowly decrease as you recover. You may find the swelling and pain is worse in the morning, but should improve throughout the day as you become more mobile and sit upright.
Sometimes you will wake up after surgery with a pressure bandage on your face. The bandage will feel very tight and uncomfortable. However, you will normally only be expected to wear the bandage for the first 24 hours after surgery. It has been found that the pressure bandage is very effective in preventing excessive swelling and bruising.
It would be expected that the worst of the swelling should disappear within 2 weeks. However, it can take up to 6-8 months before your tissue fluid levels return to a stable condition. In my case I had issues with the titanium plates so my swelling lasted a lot longer than most patients. Finally, it is not uncommon to experience “puffy days” after undertaking jaw surgery. Some patients, even 5 years after jaw surgery, still experience the odd “puffy day”. Just take a look at Kanye West's face from time to time. It does not last and you should have nothing to worry about.
It is vital to remain calm and not make the swelling any worse. It is essential that you do not stress your face or cry as this will cause the swelling to worsen in and around your cheek pockets.
So what can you do to reduce swelling?
There are many different techniques that you can adopt which will help to decrease your swelling. Coupled with my own experience and research, here is a comprehensive list of techniques that you can use to reduce your swelling post-surgery.
To aid in swelling reduction you should try to sleep in a more upright position. I would recommend using 2 or more pillows. Having your head raised in relation to the rest of your body will help to drain away fluids and reduce swelling.
After surgery your surgeon with advise that you do not participate in any contact sport for around 8-12 weeks. You will be able to resume non-contact sports and exercise as soon as you are ready. In mine and many other jaw surgery patients’ experiences, the first few weeks after surgery are uncomfortable and exhausting. With the pain, swelling, lack of sleep and the dramatic change in diet I was unable to do very much. It is important that you do not stay in bed too much whilst you are recovering. Many patients find that going for a short walk everyday can greatly reduce their swelling.
Plenty of Rest
It may sound so simple, but rest is one of the best ways to reduce swelling and promote healing. When the body is in a period of rest it can focus its concentration on functions that are neglected while you are awake. Sleep is a dormant period where the cells are doing a lot of repairing and your body moves from a stress response into a particle wave response. Although you may find your swelling is worse after a period of inactivity it is essential to rest in the first few weeks following surgery.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are another widely popular way to combat pain and swelling. Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, diclofenac and aspirin are often given to patients after undergoing surgery. There are over 20 types of medical NSAIDs. It is important that your surgeon or health care provider is happy for you to take any medications and it is important that these medications do not interfere with any other medications you may be taking. In addition to this, if you suffer from asthma or any cardiovascular issues you may not be allowed to use any type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. It is always best to speak to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any form of medication, be it prescription or over the counter remedies.
Arnica is a homeopathic medicine. There are several species, such as Arnica Montana and A. chamissoni, which contain helenalin, a sesquiterpene lactone that is a major ingredient in anti-inflammatory preparations. It has been claimed that arnica treatment can reduce swelling dramatically, prevent muscular tenderness and ease postoperative trauma. Arnica can be purchased in many forms; gel, cream, spray, bath ointment and it can be ingested in pill form.
Although, I did not use arnica after my operation, I wish I had tried this. After my mum broke her ankle my friend bought her ionised arnica gel. Mum used the gel every day after a bath and it great reduced her swelling and bruising. She also felt that it helped to ease the pain. Please be aware that after your operation your face will be very painful and fragile so make sure that you do not rub the gel or cream in too vigorously. Also ensure that you do not get any of the gel or cream on any open external wounds.
Acupuncture has been around for many years and originates from ancient china. Most recently acupuncture has become more popular with western societies and is now available in many health care establishments as a form of pain relief and physiotherapy. It is believed that acupuncture has many benefits for patients. It is stated that it can aid in the reduction of pain, swelling and stress and also provides relief from insomnia and psychological issues; such as anxiety and phobias. The needles are very thin but long and are placed in ‘acupuncture points’ around the body. The session usually lasts for 30-45 minutes.
Another effective way of combating swelling is by using a cold compress on the area several times a day. You can use a variety of forms, including a standard ice pack, a plastic bag full of ice or a bag of frozen peas. The cold will help to alleviate pain, inflammation, heat and redness around the swollen area.
When I returned to the ward after my operation I was given ice packs in pillow cases that the nurses wrapped around my head so the packs touched my cheeks lightly without putting too much pressure on them. I continued to use ice packs for the first 4 weeks after surgery. I used ice packs 4 times a day and kept them on for duration of 15 minutes at a time. Once my surgeon was happy for me to use heat, I started to alternate ice and heat packs to promote healing. This was both beneficial and soothing for me.
It is important that you use a covering, such as a pillow case, when using ice packs. Do not apply ice directly to your skin as it can cause ice burns and blistering.
Hot compresses also work well in relieving facial swelling and can help to stimulate blood flow to your face, which in turn lessens the swelling and irritation. You can use a conventional heat pack that you warm in hot water or a wheat bag which you pop into the microwave. You may also like to use a heat blanket or a heated pad for a period of 15 minutes.
Please ask your surgeon before applying any heat to your face as he/she may advise against it in the early weeks following surgery. In my case, my surgeon said to use only cold compresses for the first 4 weeks after surgery.
Staying warm (in general) will also aid in recovery, as this allows oxygenated blood to flow freely throughout your body. This can help to decrease pressure in your face and relieve swelling. It can also act as an effective muscle relaxant.
Drink Plenty of Water
Another way to reduce swelling is to ensure that you drink plenty of water. Not only will this help to keep your mouth clean it will also help to keep you hydrated. By drinking more, your body will respond by getting rid of more water as well as other waste products, which can minimize swelling. Being fully hydrated, your body can remove salt which also contributes to swelling. It is recommended that you aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
Sodium is an element that is found in many foods, as well as water. The body requires a small amount of sodium in the diet to control blood pressure and blood volume. Too much sodium may result in shortness of breath, high blood pressure and increased swelling. Reducing your salt intake can be very helpful in reducing the build-up of excess fluid in your face post-surgery. You may also want to reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks as these contain a high level of sodium.
Before and after surgery you may want to take a high potency multivitamin or increase the amount of nutrients in your diet (refer to the vitamin chart for ideas). If you are planning on taking supplements please ensure that they have an adequate level of vitamin B complex, magnesium, vitamin C, flavonoids, zinc and amino acid complex. Vitamin B complex and magnesium are beneficial for anxiety levels and also aids in healing. Vitamin C and Flavonoids are great for immune support and work as a great antioxidant. Furthermore, they also promote healing and have anti-inflammatory properties. Finally, zinc and amino acid complex are vital for bone and tissue formation.
Omega 3 Fish Oils
Although it is widely recommended supplement, its benefits have not yet been proven. The recommended daily amount is also unspecified. However, there is a vast amount of modern research that suggests Omega 3 oils may be beneficial in the reduction of swelling. In my case, I found that Omega Fish Oil supplements were also useful to improve the condition of my skin, hair and nails after surgery.
If you can handle the heat, one of the alternative ways to help decrease swelling is spice. One spice frequently publicised for its anti-inflammatory properties is capsaicin, which is a naturally occurring ingredient found in chilli peppers. Other good sources include basil, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, dill, fennel, garlic, oregano, pepper, sage, and thyme.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple juice. Pineapple has a long history of tradition and is used among the native people of Central and South America. Bromelain can be effective in the reduction of swelling, especially around the nose and sinus area. Numerous studies have shown that Bromelain speeds up the body's ability to heal. These studies have shown a significant difference in the speed of recovery in patients who had Bromelain before and after surgery and those patients who did not. From my own experience, I drink pineapple juice everyday as I find that it reduces the pain and pressure in my face. In general, since my surgeries, I have tried to make a more conscious effort to eat more pineapple and soft fruits. Warning: Bromelain in large amounts can increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood thinners such as; clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and aspirin.
If you are trying to relieve the pain and swelling in your face you might want to try drinking a lot of green tea. From my personal experience I find green tea is one of the best ways to relieve swelling and pain. Green tea has a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in it, which are great at getting rid of all types of swelling and irritation. Green tea contains salicylic acids, which is one of the main ingredients in aspirin.
When I am having a puffy day I aim to drink at least 3 cups of green tea. You may also like to drink a cup of green tea before you go to bed because it will help calm down the muscles, tissues and nerves in your face. If you do not enjoy the taste of green tea you may like to add in a teaspoon of honey. Not only does it add sweetness to the tea, it doubles up as a valuable antioxidant. Green tea can be found in most grocery stores. My favourite is Clippers Organic Green Tea.
So that is that. As always feel free to message me and join me on social media. I'm not on often but I'll reply when I can. Also check out my FAQ's blog here:http://goo.gl/UnHxfi Sending my love.
I can hardly believe it has been 4 years since my first ever surgery and 3 years since I started this blog. It has been an emotional and crazy journey and as many of you know, the journey continues. So it has become a custom to update you all at least once a year and have a general check in on things. I would like to apologise if I have been a bit slow in responding I have had a lot of work on. Alongside that I have also had to compete with the usual family dramas and ill health. So an update of my health: Numbness: Yes. All around my chin, teeth and lower lip on both sides. I doubt that I'll ever regain feeling here. But to be honest I count this as a blessing. I'd rather be numb than to have any more pain or nerve issues. I spoke to a lady a few years back who had the same surgery as me and instead of the numbness, she experiences excruciating pain every time she uses her lips. So this has meant talking, eating, drinking and even kissing her husband and children has become a total nightmare. Pain: I would rate an average of 6 out of 10. This fluctuates and decreases with my stress levels and hormones. I experience a range of different symptoms. I have muscle weakness and pain in my face and neck. I also experience nerve pain in my trigeminal nerves and down my neck and arms. This means that I find it hard to grip or carry things. In addition to this, I also experience face and head migraine attacks. These have been kept under control with hormones and Sumatriptan nasal sprays. Infections: Unfortunately, yes! I am still experiencing reoccurring sinus infections. I take regular courses of Doxycycline and have recently started trying ear candling. In the hope of clearing my sinuses a little more. Mental health: Relatively stable and content. I can cope with the daily pain and have learned to accept it. However, when I do have bad pain days or I do get an infection I find my mood can become very low. Then the feelings of being worthless and a freak kick in. I also become really agoraphobic and hide myself away at home not wanting to speak to anyone. I try to distract myself from dwelling as much as possible. I still see my psychologist and psychiatrist and they have been really good throughout the whole process. I also try to read as much as I can. This helps me to escape. If I can't read a good film, a bath or a 30-minute meditation or classical music session soon make me feel relaxed. Current medications for pain: Co-Codomol 30/500mg, ibruprofen 400mg, Amitryptline 20mg, Loestrinen 20 and Sumatriptan 5ml nasal sprays. I have some Diazepam in the cupboard for bad episodes. But I have not been bad enough to use it yet. Herbal remedies used: green tea, aloe vera, acai berry, raspberry ketone, vitamin D and fish oils omega 3, 6, 9. For the inflammation I drink pineapple juice and use ice packs. When my pain is bad I'll often use a microwave wheat pack. If I can afford it a steam room at a spa really does a great job of easing my pain. It also helps to clear my sinuses and it is actually the only place I've felt completely pain free and relaxed. Such a shame I can't have one at home haha. I also still go for massages. I switch the treatments up every now and then. I've tried hot stone massage, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, reflexology, crianial therapy and ear candles. I find every single one of these eases my pain a little. It never goes 100% but it does help to bring it down to a more comfortable level.
And on to everyone’s favourite part of the blog... This year has been one hell of a crazy year. My best friend from primary school got married, I got a brand new car, went on holiday and I've finally found love. Yes, that is correct! After years of being single I finally found someone who tolerates me :). We met on the 1st March 2015 and have been together since. Originally we were supposed to meet for a quick coffee. But that turned into a 8 hour coffee and meal. On the 14th March Alex officially asked me to be his girlfriend. I've literally never felt the way I feel about Alex. Not only is he an amazing boyfriend, but he is also my best friend. For the first time in my life I don't have to be afraid to be myself. I can be my authentic self. He never judges me and accepts my limitations as if they aren't a big deal. He often makes jokes about how I coped before I met him (while carrying my extremely light bags and opening bottles of water for me). Don't get me wrong, it's not been plain sailing, but I know that I have finally found someone who has chosen to share himself with me and accepts me for who I am. Whatever one of us is lacking the other makes up for. So we make quite a formidable team.
In amongst all of our work and commitments we even managed to visit Rome and Tuscany in the summer. It was absolutely amazing!
I also had the UK Blog Awards in April. My brother and I went along all suited and booted. Thanks to your votes I was announced as a finalist at the end of last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t win but I was really grateful to be in final. It was a great night and a fabulous experience. I wasn’t expecting to win because this area is so niche, but when my name wasn’t called I did feel a little disappointed. Thinking about it now, I am unsure if I would have made it to the stage in my floor length dress and heels (not mention the 5 glasses of champagne I’d had) if I had won.
On the eve of my 4 year anniversary I started to write this blog. But I have been so busy that it has taken until now to finally get it finished. As some of you would have seen, I took the bold move and dyed my hair red. Well auburn. I wanted a change and I wanted to make a statement. I really like it and am planning to keep it up for a while. My confidence is nowhere near what it should be, but i am starting to feel a lot happier about myself and the way I look. Alex tells me I am beautiful everyday but I still find it hard to believe anyone could find me attractive. I suppose a lot of other people feel like this too.
Oh and we have finally starting to get mum's house in order and after a year of having no garden we are finally BBQ ready. Although, now it is winter and we won't see any sun here in the UK for another 6 months. But still, exciting news! All in all, this year hasn't been bad at all. I still hope one day I'll be pain free but I'm unsure whether this will ever happen. I'm in a much better place mentally and physically, so my pain level is much more manageable now. I find it quite difficult to blog now that I am moving on from the experience. But I always have time for people who email me. This is such a unique and totally terrifying experience for anyone to go through. Even living with chronic pain brings its own unanswered questions and worries. I would like to thank everyone who has been there for me through my journey. Especially my mum, my brother, my friends (Theresa, Jackie, Aash & family, Peter, Jeremy, Ali and Mehmood) and my hospital consultants and medical professional. Without every single one of you I wouldn't be where I am now. And for that I am truly thankful. So on that note... Another year gone, another successful follow up appointment at Guy's and my pain management programme continues. As always feel free to message me and join me on social media. I'm not on often but I'll reply when I can. Also check out my FAQ's blog here: http://goo.gl/UnHxfi Sending my love.
After spending hour upon hour and day upon day searching the internet, sometimes all you need is a quick FAQ section to put your mind at rest. Here is list of questions my readers frequently ask.
How long ago was your surgery?
I had my first surgery in August 2011 and my plate removal surgery in December 2012. So 3.5 and 2 years ago.
Did you feel unhappy with the way you looked before surgery?
Yes I felt unhappy with the way I looked. Growing up for a girl in modern society is not the easiest thing to go through. I know, I know, first world problems. But when you are a 13 year old school girl being bullied for the way you look and seeing your friend’s receive attention from boys, you do not really see the bigger picture. I would not say I had it too bad. Looking back, I had some great friends, both boys and girls and was able to get through school with ease. Of course there would be the odd incident or name calling. The worse was being spat on. But by and large I had it good compared to others. I thank my friends and the school for that.
For many years I felt uncomfortable with the way I looked. So I would hold my head to the side and sit on a certain side of the bus, as to not offend anyone with the “worst side” of my face. Although both sides were pretty odd looking. At the age of 17 I was attacked on a bus and this really knocked my confidence. So much so, that for many years I would not even leave the house alone. When I passed my driving test, things became a little easier. But you would never find me walking along the street alone or going to the shops.
After the trauma of my first operation, I became a total recluse. I did not want to go out. I became scared of the world. I often had flashbacks from the attack and would worry about somebody smashing my face in or falling and breaking my face. I could not go through that pain again, so I retreated into myself. The only time I would leave the house would be to go to my hospital appointments. I finally started to receive some help for my agoraphobia and anxiety after my first operation. This has helped me a lot. I still have the odd panic attack and I am still anxious and on high alert when I leave the house. But anything is an improvement on what I used to be like.
Before the operations I used to notice people staring at me. Some people would whisper and the old ladies would often say “oh you poor love”. Since the operations I feel like I am not so much of an easy target. I sort of blend into the background now.
I would not say I am 100% happy with the way I look. But who can be in a society that popularises perfection and cloning. I will never look like the symmetrical tanned models in the magazine. But I do not need to. I am unique. It has taken a long time for me to accept this but, I do not want to be somebody else. For once in my life, I want to be me! Flaws and all.
Did you have any problems before surgery?
Other than the psychological issues experienced before surgery, I had a terrible underbite. My back teeth did not meet at all. I had to chew on my front teeth only. I also found it hard to smile and talk at times. On top of this the asymmetry was putting quite a lot of pressure on my TMJ and 2 years before surgery I started to develop crippling left sided facial pain. I was diagnosed with Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia and TMJ dysfunction. I was put on muscle relaxants, powerful pain medications and antidepressants. I went from being a fit young woman who loved to dance, swim and cycle, who had 3 jobs and was studying for her BA Hons, to a weak heap on so much medication I could not even string a sentence together.
I did feel like the operation was the only option I had. My surgeon had warned me that the operation may make my pain 100x worse, but I was desperate. I did not care. I could not live another day with the pain I was in. I had to try something, anything! At the time of the operation, my brace work had placed my teeth to one side of my jaw. I could only chew on one side of my mouth. So realistically I did not have much of a choice in the matter.
How do people react to you now, compared to before surgery?
Before surgery some people would make comments. There were a few incidents where 2 different boys spat on me on the way home from school. I feel a lot of my esteem issues came after visiting the hospital in Sidcup. I used to dread going to my appointments. They made me feel like a freak. I remember one of the surgeons coming in briefly and saying “don’t worry we will sort that out”, like my face was something to be ashamed of. It felt like I did not have a choice in the matter. When I transferred to Mr Matthews’ team at Guy’s Hospital things changed. Although, I tried so hard to find a way of not having the brace work before surgery they told me that it would be the best option for me. They also said the decision about my treatment was down to me. If I was not ready to have the treatment now, they would wait for me.
Immediately after surgery there was a mixture of reactions. Some of my friends and family noticed the change straight away. As others, could not really see the change. I was swollen for a very long time after surgery and the sinus infections did not help the situation. Now I feel like people are more positive about the way I look. I receive the odd nasty comment. But I believe most people will experience that. Out of habit I still show my “best side” in photos or when I conduct myself in daily life. My surgeon and orthodontist are both pleased with my final bite result. Other medical professionals have all been impressed with my surgeon’s work.
To read more about people's reaction soon after surgery, click here.
Did the surgery stop you from grinding your teeth?
Because of my asymmetrical bite I never did grind my teeth. I would find myself clenching quite a bit after surgery. But I suppose that was down to my bite being in a completely new position. I have spoken to a lot of patients who have found they grind and clench a lot less since their surgery.
Did the surgery stop your jaw joints from clicking?
My jaw joints still click and I still have a slipped piece of cartilage in my right joint. So this sometimes causes my joint to click. When I first started opening my jaw after surgery I found that my jaw would click a lot. Almost every time I opened my jaw. Rest assured this is very common after surgery. Even now, if i find my joint is clicking a lot I will use a heat pad to soothe the area. I also carry on with my jaw opening and strengthening exercises.
Does your bite feel stable now?
Yes! Now I am 3 years post orthognathic surgery my bite feels a lot more stable. I do have times were I feel like my muscles are trying to pull on my jaw and force it back into its original position. When this happens I tend to wear my retainers more often and use heat pads to soothe the muscles. Sometimes my teeth will cross one another and get stuck. This was quite frightening the first time it happened. I spoke to my surgeon straight away and he put my mind at ease. I went to have an examination and he also took some x-rays. He was happy with the stability of the bite.
I feel like it is important to write here that although relapse is rare, it can happen. I have spoken to 2 women who were 3 years and 8 years post op and experienced relapse. If you feel as if you are experiencing more pain than normal, or if your bite is unstable please contact your dentist or doctor. 9 times out of 10 it will be nothing, but it is so important to get checked out.
Do you still get sinus infections?
Yes, unfortunately I still experience sinus infections. Since my surgery, I started to develop reoccurring sinus infections. I had never had a sinus infection in my life before this point. It was hoped by removing the upper jaw titanium plates that this would resolve the issue. But it has not. I still suffer from sinus infections but I do not experience them as often now.
Why did you have your plates removed after jaw surgery?
I had my plates removed following reoccurring sinus infections and lower jaw pain. The screws in my top jaw were poking through into my nasal cavity. It was assumed by the ENT doctor that these were causing irritation to my sinuses, thus causing the infections. The lower plates would really hurt in cold weather. Because I do not have a lot of flesh around my lower jaw, the plates were sometimes visible. I have a very slender jaw line so the muscles would clench and pull around the plate sites causing pain and discomfort. Since having the plates removed the frequency of sinus infections has decreased and my lower jaw pain has decreased. The muscles still spasm around the jaw, but it is not as painful now the plates have been removed.
To read my blog about plate removal surgery and recovery, click here.
How long did you have to wear braces?
I wore my braces for a total of 3 years and only had them on 4 months after surgery.
To read my blog about coping with braces, click here.
What is the pain like after surgery?
It is important to note that everybody is unique. Everybody has a different pain threshold, some people have pain and issues before surgery and some people have relatively quick and easy procedures. Predicting how this surgery will affect you is impossible.
I know some patients who have no pain at all when they wake up. They go on to have a quick and easy recovery and do not have any lasting issues. Realistically, I was never going to be one of those people. I have gone through life and created a challenge no matter where I went. After the first surgery I experienced the worst pain of my life. I would not have wished this pain on my worst enemy.
To read my blog about coping with long term pain, click here.
What is the pain like now?
Pain Level in 2011: 10
Pain Level 2013: 5/6
Pain Level 2014: 5/6 sometimes 7
Pain levels are stable and mostly controllable. However, I have been experiencing a lot of migraines and optical nerve pain this year. Muscle spasms and muscle strength has not improved. Current pain medications include: co-codamol 30/500mg, ibuprofen 400mg, Amitriptyline 20mg, Sumatriptan Nasal Sprays 20mg and Diazepam 5mg. I am still taking raspberry ketones, green tea extract, multivitamins and fish oil supplements. It really is not ideal and I do worry about the effects these medications are having on my body. I have tried to cut the medications down, but these attempts have been unsuccessful. I have recently started using Sumatriptan and Diazepam because my migraines and muscle pain was becoming relentless. I had a crazy migraine on the whole of the right side of my head for 5 days straight. The pain would start at the top of my head; travel down my face and also through my eye to the back of my head. When this happens, the nerve that runs down my right arm fires off and I cannot grip with my right hand. These episodes started to become a weekly occurrence and it was stopping me from functioning at all. I could not read or drive, so I decided to try some new pain medications. I am quite sensitive to many medications, so I was very reluctant to try anything new. I have tried muscle relaxants in the past and they had a very negative effect on me.
After seeing my surgeon in September I made the decision not to undergo anymore surgery. My joints are reasonably healthy and my bite is good. I could undergo a genioplasty to straighten my chin, but this will not impact on my bite or pain levels. If anything, replacing my face with more metal work may make my pain worse. After weighing up the pros and cons, I decided against having anymore surgery.
What did you use to ease the pain?
Immediately after surgery I was in so much pain. Unimaginable pain! Nothing could have prepared me for what happened. In the beginning I used ice packs continuously. I also took high strength pain killers and rested as much as I could. It was impossible to sleep, so I spent my days highly drugged up, in agony, listening to Disney movies. I positioned myself in an upright position and used 4-6 pillows to support my head, neck and back. Knowing what I know now I would have drank a lot more green tea and pineapple juice. Both of these can act as natural anti-inflammatories. I would have also tried listening to sleep hypnosis and guided meditation.
To read my bog about how to sleep after surgery, click here.
Were you worried or scared before surgery?
I was petrified before surgery. Even up until I went into the aesthetic room I was crying and I genuinely thought I was going to die. The thought of never seeing my mum and brother again really upset me. The anaesthetist was really cold and heartless. She even said “Well you don’t have to go through with it, we can cancel”. After waiting my whole life and after experiencing so much pain I hardly had a choice to just walk away from the operation. I was in such a state leading up to my operation, but I managed to keep a lot of my fears to myself.
1. Make sure you are prepared. Have 4 bags of frozen peas at home; make sure you have a blender, plenty of pillows, DVDs, books and someone there to help for the first few weeks.
2. Book a reasonable amount of time off of work/ college. It is so important not to rush your recovery.
3. Don’t panic or stress. Realise that this is a huge operation and you should be compassionate with yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Some people experience little or no pain and are back to normal within a few weeks. As others have a longer and more complex recovery. No one person is the same.
4. Eat/ Drink well. Make sure you eat and drink well. 2 litres of fresh still water a day and lots of high vitamin rich soups and food. I know it is tempting to overload your body with sugar and salt, but this really isn’t healthy. In order to speed up recovery you should maintain a balanced and healthy diet. If you can, use supplements and take multivitamins that are high in vitamin B12, C and D.
5. Maintain good oral hygiene by using antiseptic mouthwash and follow your surgeon’s instructions. Ensure that you attend all of your follow up appointments and listen to your team’s advice.
On leaving hospital you may be given a mouthwash to rinse with to stop infection. You will be encouraged to start brushing your teeth as soon as possible. In the beginning, I found using a soft baby brush was beneficial and Corsodyl mouth wash to ease the ulcers and to stop bacteria. However, it took me several weeks to get to this stage. With the combination of scarring, swelling, bleeding and bands/wires it was nearly impossible to brush my teeth. I was in a huge amount of pain and found opening my mouth wide enough for a syringe was very challenging. To ensure that my internal wounds did not get infected and my mouth was hygienic, I rinsed with medication mouthwash and salt water every 2 hours.
Anytime I drank or ate I would rinse my mouth with water after every mouthful. I was also on a course of antibiotics for 2 weeks after surgery. This was a precaution. With any health issue, please consult your doctor or surgeon if you experience any symptoms or discomfort.
To find out more about brushing your teeth post-surgery, click here.
Did they remove your wisdom teeth before or during surgery?
Yes I had one of my exposed wisdom teeth removed before surgery. My surgeon made the decision to leave the remaining 3 wisdom teeth in after surgery. Some surgeon’s like to remove all wisdom teeth during surgery to avoid future complications.
To read more about wisdom teeth extraction, please click here.
At what age did you start your corrective treatment?
At the age of 11 I was told I would need corrective jaw surgery. At the age of 12 I started orthodontic treatment on my lower teeth and had 7 teeth removed. It wasn’t until many years later that the main bulk of my treatment began.
How long do I have to wait before the swelling goes down?
After surgery it is not uncommon to have swelling on your face and neck area. The swelling should peak by day 3 and then start to slowly decrease as you recover. You may find the swelling and pain is worse in the morning, but should improve throughout the day as you become more mobile and sit upright.
Sometimes you will wake up after surgery with a pressure bandage on your face. The bandage will feel very tight and uncomfortable. However, you will normally only be expected to wear the bandage for the first 24 hours after surgery. It has been found that the pressure bandage is very effective in preventing excessive swelling and bruising.
It would be expected that the worst of the swelling should disappear within 2 weeks. However, it can take up to 6-8 months before your tissue fluid levels return to a stable condition. In my case I had issues with the titanium plates so my swelling lasted a lot longer than most patients. Finally, it is not uncommon to experience “puffy days” after undertaking jaw surgery. Some patients, even 5 years after jaw surgery, still experience the odd “puffy day”. It does not last and you should have nothing to worry about.
To find out more why not check out my “Patient’s Guide to Reducing Swelling”, by clicking here.
Can you feel your face now?
No not fully. A lot of my feeling has come back, but I am still completely numb from my lower lip and teeth down to under my chin. This is on both sides. I do sometimes dribble and I feel very conscious when I go out to eat or drink. Kissing is not the same as before. I am lucky though that the muscles have not been affected and it is purely the numbness. After a few months of training, I was able to eat and drink without the use of a mirror.
After lower jaw surgery it is expected that patients will feel numbness or pins and needles around the chin, lower jaw and lip area. This is completely normal and should only be temporary. In most cases the lower numbness starts to wear off within a couple of weeks. However, sometimes it can take up to 12-18 months for full sensation to return to the area. In a few cases the numbness may become permanent. As the muscles will be unaffected, the numbness should not restrict you from speaking properly or using your lip or lower jaw in the future.
If you are undertaking upper jaw surgery the area of numbness may be larger. With upper jaw surgery it would be expected for the patient to feel numb from the eye area downwards. The numb area can spread down the face and cause numbness in the upper lip, gum and teeth. As with the lower jaw surgery the upper numbness should start to fade between 8-12 weeks and full sensation would be expected within 12-18 months.
How long after surgery did you have to wait before you could talk and eat normally?
For the first 4 days after surgery I could not eat anything. I was having water through a syringe. After day 4 I started to have soup and watered down fruit juice through the syringe. Because of the pain and numbness my mother had to help me. I moved to small plastic cups after 3 weeks.
I had 3-4 weeks of liquid diet and my surgeon gave me the go ahead to move to a soft food diet. All in all it took around 5 months before I was eating a normal diet again.
Download my “Jaw Surgery Survival Kit” to find out more.
Did you go clubbing with your braces? Did you find it harder to talk to guys or feel pretty?
As most of you would have guessed by now I am quite a private person. I rarely open up about my love life or past pursuits. But after speaking with some young ladies recently, I have decided to add their question into my FAQ.
Current society puts a lot of pressure on young people to fit in. If you aren’t pretty enough, skinny enough, muscular enough, or popular enough, you are an outsider, a freak! Yes I know this all too well. Like most children and teenagers growing up I was bullied. My self-image suffered immensely and I still look in the mirror and see the freak staring back at me. Yes, even after all of the operations and being brace free I still don’t like my reflection.
In answer to the first part of the question; Yes I did still go clubbing. I feel like I was probably a little more self-conscious after having my braces and I would be conscious to hide my braces as much as possible. I wore my hair down and ensured that I did not wear big or bright make up or high-necked tops. I wanted to draw attention away from my face as much as possible. Nowadays, even in the short 3 years since my braces, we are seeing a bigger cultural shift. More adults are getting corrective surgery and many more people are investing in braces. More adults than ever are having braces. If you can’t have Invisalign, do not worry. Embrace your brace. You will only have them on for a couple of short years and then you will have perfect teeth forever. It is more than worth it.
In answer to the second part of the question; did I find it harder to talk to guys or feel pretty? Well when I finally got my braces at the age of 19 I already had a boyfriend. He knew I was going to have surgery and also knew that I would need to wear braces for a couple of years. He was ok about the whole thing and never once complained or mentioned them. I was very worried before I had the braces and tried to figure out a way not to have them. Unfortunately, due to the severity of my case there was no other way. I often felt like ugly Betty, but other than a few immature comments, I mostly forgot I had braces. The way I looked did not impact on my ability to study or to complete my job.
To read more about braces click on the links below:
After jaw surgery many patients will be fitted with a splint. This is a plastic wafer that sits between the upper and lower teeth. The wafer has small indents which allow for your teeth to sit inside them. The splint helps to stabilise your bite and train your muscles to function with your new jaw position after surgery. After my orthognathic surgery I had to have my splint removed as it was causing excess saliva build up and making me gag. Due to my slight overbite post-surgery I was unable to use the splint and it was removed the next day.
Are you happy you had surgery?
I get asked this question a lot! I am 100% happy I went through with the surgery. Although it has been a tough few years, I am more content now than I have ever been. By going through what I did and by experiencing the setbacks and the pain, I am now able to share my story with you all. Although I still suffer from pain daily, I am in a lot less pain than I was before surgery.
Before surgery I was suicidal. I could not function at all. Life was a living nightmare. Now I am in less pain and have access to the support I need. I have an amazing group of people around me and life has finally started to get back on track. I take strength and courage in the fact I have helped others and will continue to share my journey with you all. Every single follower and reader is so unique and you have all touched and inspired me with your courage and honesty. I hope we can all continue to build on this and help others through these difficult times.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown