I've had braces on my (finally straight!) teeth for over two years now and I have been documenting the trials and tribulations along the way. You may have been horrified/enlightened by my previous posts where I discussed eating, not eating and reconstructive jaw surgery.
Aside from braces, upper and lower jaw surgery were deemed necessary for me in order to obtain a correct bite. My teeth were so poorly formed that braces could only accomplish so much.
Phase One: I agreed to jaw surgery after deliberations with my orthodontist.
Really, I'm no expert so I put all of my trust into the professionals. My first surgery was to widen my upper jaw which was in the shape of a baby pterodactyl jaw (you know, tiny and triangular). That was two years ago and I am super happy with the results.
Phase Two: More Reconstruction.
The second phase of my mouth transformation is surgery on my lower jaw (orthognathic surgery for all you medical nerds out there). This involves breaking my lower jaw bones in two spots and then moving my lower jaw ever so slightly forward, eliminating any remaining overbite.
This surgery is the final step before getting my braces removed and I have been anticipating it greatly. At my first pre-op appointment with the surgeon, I had minor panic going over the details. I suddenly began thinking that their version of 'subtle lower jaw advancement' and my version were way off. My surgeon assured me that my facial features could handle the change and my vain concerns were soothed.
I had started to consider myself a pro at all sorts of mouth surgeries and traumas, so I was genuinely not terribly nervous leading up to the operating day. This was my state of mind right up until the night before the big day. My kind friends took me out for some wine and encouragement on a sunny patio to take my mind off face altering surgery. Later that evening the stress and fear hit me in a wave of nausea while eating post-wine burgers at my buddy's house. I proceeded to vomit in his bathroom for over an hour. OK, maybe three glasses of wine on an empty stomach caused the nausea, who can say for sure?
Phase Three: Operating Day!
Mother drives me to the hospital and waits with me for the whole time until my sad and lonely walk to the operating room. After one last chat with my surgeon, his resident then tried to fasten my hair under a towel (unsuccessfully as my hair nest could not be tamed that morning). Mother decides to whip out her phone and take some candid pictures of me while I was at my most vulnerable.
The surgery was a success and I woke up with a morphine drip in Toronto's finest hospital. I had a minor crush on my nurse, Ron. Mostly because he ensured that I was fully doped up at all times. He brought me endless liters of apple juice. We fist bumped. I told him that I loved him.
The morning of my hospital departure, Ron sat on the edge of my bed, carefully removing the IV from my hand and studying my chart. He then lowered his voice, looking away from me and said "Lisa, I have to tell you something. I was going through your chart and..."
My mind started racing. His sudden serious tone had me terrified. I was thinking: you are looking at my chart .. AND??? And what? Can you tell I had too much wine the night before surgery? Do I have an incurable disease? Is that STD from my 20s back?? WHAT IS IT RON??
Ron continues "Lisa, I have to tell you, you really don't look 36. I would say that you are like 24, tops." I advised Ron that when issuing compliments, please do not put on a sombre voice while studying your patient's documents.
Final Phase: The Recovery
Mother hosted me for a convalescence at her place in the suburbs. Pain medication was ingested on a regular basis. All types of nutrient rich liquids were slowly poured down my gullet. Around day 3, I needed something more refreshing and I helped myself to several non alcoholic beers while sitting in Mother's garden.
The recovery was, in all honesty, a breeze. I had minimal bruising and two awesome stitches on either side of my face, but the swelling was horrendous. The first glimpse of myself in a mirror completely rocked me. The lower half of my face was now oblong instead of face like.
I had a rotating supply of ice packs and I kept them on my face until the swelling was under control. Seeing as mother has everything under the sun at her house, she produced the finest ice pack which could wrap around my head. It was lavender scented.
It's been two weeks now. I'm still in mild pain and my chin and lower lip are totally numb. It hurts to laugh and talking is exhausting. Much to the delight of friends and coworkers, I have been rather silent.
The hardest part now is being on the liquid diet. I will admit that I have cheated by mashing soft bits of food into the tiny opening that the elastics around my braces will allow. Sometimes a gal needs french fries. I am not a big eater since having braces on for over two years, but a liquid diet of four weeks is making me long to chow down on a massive steak.
I've now been through two surgeries, gum grafting (yes, it's disgusting), monthly wire tightening and a surprising weight loss. In eight more months, my braces will be removed and I'll be free to start shoving things in my mouth again. Things like hard fruits and baguettes, you perverts.
Older adults who get <a href="http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(12)00089-7/abstract">thorough dental cleanings</a> may have a lower heart attack risk than people who follow a less-stringent oral health regimen, according to a 2012 study in the <em>American Journal of Medicine</em>.
The <a href="http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(12)00089-7/abstract">same study</a> also found a link between regular visits to the dentist -- and getting professional "scaling" (or tooth scraping) -- and a decreased stroke risk.
While this is a bit more obvious than the other benefits, regular brushing can also help to prevent gum disease. The <em><a href="http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/nidcr2.nih.gov/Templates/CommonPage.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID=%7bCE246689-D899-4CC7-B68A-805AD910F4E7%7d&NRORIGINALURL=%2fOralHealth%2fTopics%2fGumDiseases%2fPeriodontalGumDisease%2ehtm&NRCACHEHINT=Guest#howCanI">National Insititute of Dental and Craniofacial Research </a></em> suggests brushing your teeth two times a day to ward off gum disease.
A <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-01/aaop-hgm011811.php">2011 study</a> published in the <em>Journal of Periodontology</em> showed that oral infections and diseases can raise the risk of <em>respiratory</em> diseases, including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Pneumonia and COPD are caused when bacteria get into the lower respiratory tract from the upper part of the throat. If you keep your mouth clean (thereby lowering your risk of oral infection), that could help to keep bacteria from getting into your lower respiratory tract.
Believe it or not, having a good dental hygiene routine can be healthy for pregnancy. <a href="http://www.perio.org/consumer/pregnancy-therapy07.htm">A 2007 study</a> published in the <em>Journal of Periodontology Online</em> showed that periodontal disease is linked with pre-term low birth weight. "Our study showed that performing periodontal therapy on pregnant women who have periodontal disease may reduce the risk of preterm delivery to equal that of periodontally healthy women," study researcher Catia M. Gazolla, DDS, said in a statement. "These are important findings that we hope all pregnant women will take to their dental professionals when discussing their periodontal health."
Brushing your teeth also serves as an indicator to your brain that mealtime's over, <a href="http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-tips/16-simple-ways-eat-less/15-brush-your-teeth-after-dinner">reports <em>Prevention</em></a>. Brushing your teeth after a meal can help ward off mindless eating and consuming more calories than you need. Plus, it's worthwhile to mention that after brushing your teeth, <a href="http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/19516">food doesn't quite taste the same</a> (you can thank chemicals in toothpaste for that taste-bud effect), <em>Mental Floss</em> noted.
A 2010 study from the NYU College of Dentistry showed that <a href="http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/ADA/2010/article/ADA-09-Gum-Disease-May-Play-a-Role-in-Alzheimers.cvsp">gum disease</a> may increase the risk for Alzheimer's disease. Again, brushing and keeping up a clean kisser can help ward off oral infections and possibly lessen the risk for Alzheimer's disease.
While having fresh breath in the bedroom is reason enough to keep up the brushing, there's more: A clean mouth may help to prevent erectile dysfunction. <em>Prevention</em> magazine reports that chronic gum disease is slightly more common in <a href="http://www.prevention.com/health/sex-relationships/healthy-teeth-better-sex">men with erectile dysfunction</a> of a moderate to severe level, compared with men who don't have erectile dysfunction.
Shane Methal explains how to brush teeth correctly in this dental care video.