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The Joys of Jaw Surgery (and Other Adventures on the Road to Perfect Teeth)

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I made the decision to get braces put on my severely misaligned teeth two years ago. As you may or may not know, Canada has some great health care options. But in Ontario, we citizens pay out of pocket for all dental services unless we have a health insurance plan at work.

Seeing as I haven't had health insurance since, like... ever... I knew braces were going to take a toll on my tiny wallet.

Luckily I had a connection to my city's top university's orthodontic teaching program. So just like that I was able to bypass their three-year wait list and my journey (read mild torture) began.

I was so grateful to be fast tracked into this program that I payed little attention to the cost (which was actually about a third of what it would have been at a regular orthodontist) and lengthy time commitment. After throwing down a large down payment and negotiating sick leave/time off with my boss I signed up for the initial screening.

The doctors and graduates assessed my disastrous teeth and determined the only way to near perfection was to include jaw surgery. A plan was laid out before my eyes and it included:

•two jaw surgeries (widen the upper jaw, push forward the lower)
•new face shape and profile resulting from said surgeries (uh... ok!)
•straight teeth (hooray!)
•regular and lengthy appointments in the middle of my workday (yes please!)

My first appointment was three hours of hell combining x ray, photography and mold impressions. Nightmare. By the time I was finished, the corners of my mouth were cracked and bleeding and my waterproof mascara hadn't stood up to all of my tears. All of this pain just for doctors and dentists to see how sadly my teeth and jaw are deformed.

Like everyone else I also have a mild fear of dentists and this initial appointment was just an introduction for the barrage of future terrors including monthly rewiring, metal appliances, retainers, and yeah surgery.

A few visits and several months later, I finally had the first set of braces put on my top teeth.
Almost immediately after, I was prepped for the upper jaw surgery. Friends, most of you have beautiful semi-circle shaped upper palettes. My upper jaw however grew into a tiny triangular shape that is common in birds. The only solution to fix this and my damned overbite was to SAW MY UPPER PALATE INTO TWO PIECES. My newly broken jaw was to be secured in place by a metal appliance attached to my molars and two other teeth going horizontally across the roof of my mouth. This piece of machinery (which I do not think has advanced since the middle ages) was cemented into my mouth, and after the surgery I was responsible for "opening" this device each day, thereby widening my jaw into a human form.

The actual surgery was a breeze. After a bit of pre-op crying, I was whisked away and then returned to my hospital bed in a morphine haze. My sweet sweet mother picked me up the next day and brought me to her house in the suburbs for some R&R. Side note: my then live-in boyfriend decided that his priority that week was to tour with his band in Northern Ontario rather than to take care of his beloved after surgery. Note, I said "THEN live in boyfriend."

I gave my mother my prepared grocery list fit for someone with a broken jaw that included:
•elderly persons' nutritional supplements in liquid form -- chocolate only
•thin soups
•rice milk
•various blendable fruits
•vodka

I discovered two alarming things while recovering from surgery. The first being that now that my jaw was in two pieces my teeth moved when I brushed them. Think about that.

The other major bit of news was that I was severely allergic to Percocet painkillers. My mother cares for elderly folk as her living and as such she made a detailed medicine/feeding schedule for me whilst in her care. After half a day of my prescribed painkillers, I began to vomit every hour for many hours. Remembering my post-op handout warning me of avoiding such banal activities as sneezing, I figured rampant vomiting was not cool. Mother rushed me to the local (understaffed) emergency room and I continued to barf on the admitting counter, in the bathroom and into my trusty plastic bag on my lap for 8 hours.

I recovered on a rickety gurney under a thin blanket and was graciously given a dose of morphine for an hour before being kicked out (again, thanks universal healthcare) and sent back to my mom's spare bedroom.

Dear mother was more attentive to me than ever before and I would simply text her when I needed another bottle of Boost or a pillow fluff. She never told me where she hid that vodka.

After six months of religiously turning that crazy metal bar hooked onto my teeth, my jaw bone fused back together into a new delightfully normal shape. The metal appliance was taken out and my face shape took on a new look. I was worried that I would have a wide unflattering look about me but I was proved wrong. My upper teeth now sit comfortably on top of my lower teeth and my overbite is almost non existent.

I am eagerly awaiting the lower jaw surgery this spring. Now that I am equipped with all of the knowledge from my last experience, I will sashay into the operating room with the air of a veteran.

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