Friday, 7 June 2013

Recent Press about Orthognathic Surgery

So here I am on the verge of having a rant on. Recently there has been lots of press in the UK covering orthognathic surgery. Conveniently, just as the budget for patients in the NHS has been cut. Although wonderful and admirable for these patients to share their story and journey through orthognathic surgery, there are some really big issues with the way the papers have displayed this type of surgery and how they have played down the importance of it in people’s lives. It seems the newspapers and the people who have commented on the articles seem to believe that orthognathic surgery is a cosmetic procedure designed to make us all feel happy and comfortable with the way we look. Secondly, orthognathic surgery is for vain people and it is available on the NHS for free.

I am sure most of you who read my blog are undergoing treatment or have undergone treatment to correct your bite. So what I am about to write will be no surprise to you. Orthognathic surgery is a procedure to reposition the jaws. Ortho means straighten and gnathia means jaw in Latin. The operation aims to correct the discrepancy between the upper and lower jaws, which will enable the teeth to bite together correctly. This operation may also have the benefit of balancing and enhancing the external facial appearance.
So why did I have orthognathic surgery? At the age of 11 I started to develop a very noticeable jaw line and bite discrepancy. As I grew I developed a very noticeable asymmetry in my facial line and profile. As the external situation of my face worsened, much more was happening inside my mouth. My teeth on one side did not meet at all and I could not bite using my back teeth. This meant that I could only chew on one side of my mouth. As I reached my 20’s I started orthognathic treatment which involved straightening my teeth using braces before surgery. The teeth need to be straight for surgery so you will get the best results and a stable bite. If the bite is not stable the jaw may relapse into its original position.

After 2 years of wearing braces, I developed horrendous and crippling left sided facial pain. This pain affected my life immensely and saw me lose my identity as a person. I explored both medical and holistic therapies but nothing worked. I was diagnosed with TMD and ATN and continued to wait for my orthognathic surgery. During the tests and discussions the hospital also saw that I had a slipped disc in my right jaw joint and both joints had some wear on them.

All the doctors and surgeons I saw advised that the operation may make the situation worse and my pain may get worse after surgery. But to be honest how could it get any worse? I was in agony every second of every day with no let up. Orthognathic surgery was my only choice. I am sure if that choice would have been taken away from me, that I would not be here now writing this. I was suicidal and I could not see the point in going on in a life that meant constant pain and strong medication that made me so dead to the world I could not even write my name on a piece of paper.

Fortunately, I had my orthognathic surgery in August 2011 and was fitted with titanium plates and banded shut for a period of months. During the operation it was discovered the nerves in my face are in a different position to other peoples and this attributed to the nerve pain I was feeling. My teeth had reached a point where they were rubbing against my trigeminal nerve on the left side of my face and this was what was causing the relentless onslaught of pain.

For those who have not already read my blog, feel free to read about my recovery in the blog links below.

As you will see it was not all plain sailing and unlike these miracle cases in the paper, I was not even able to lift my head off of the pillow unattended after 1 week of recovery. Recovery has been lengthy but I am so pleased that I had the surgery.  I still suffer from breathing problems and sinus infections. I also still have pain caused by TMD and TN but it is nowhere near as bad as it was 2 years ago. It is manageable on pain relief and some holistic therapies.

I hate the way the newspaper has glamourized orthognathic surgery and made it seem very superficial for the patients who have undertaken treatment. We live in a nation obsessed with beauty and image. Why would anyone want to go through orthognathic surgery unless it was medically necessary for their long term wellbeing and health? Yes there is the upside that you may feel more attractive and confident after the surgery but the real plus here is that you can eat, breathe and talk normally and without pain. It also significantly reduces the risk of you needing jaw surgery in later life as the wear and tear on the joints should be halted by the improved bite.

Finally, the last point I would like to have a rant about is the prices displayed in the newspaper. Where did they pluck these from? Thin air obviously! The daily mail quoted £5k. I am not sure when they last looked at the price of braces in the UK. So for 3 years treatment, continuous brace work and a huge operation that lasts for a minimum of 3 hours it will only cost you £5k. I do not think so. When I looked at going private for my case I was quoted £27,000-£33,000 and that was not taking into consideration any brace work, hospital stays, complications or further operations that may be needed. That was purely for the initial operation. When I spoke to my surgeon recently he said my case would easy have cost over 6 figures by now.

Anyway my rant is over. Have a wonderful week whatever you are up to and do not hesitate to get into contact if you have any questions.

Many thanks

Stefanie xx

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