Having your mouth wired shut is not a fun experience. Even without the extra issues I had, there’s still the fact that you cannot eat. Drinks do not satisfy the appetite the way a meal does. Food is such a huge part of human culture that even if you get the required calories and nutrients from a liquid diet, there is a huge part of your day missing, unable to be filled.
Nevertheless, five long weeks after surgery, the splint was off. Opening my mouth again was a strange feeling. The muscles were weak, so I could barely open at all. Chewing was also out of the question, a decision reinforced by my still-numb upper gums.
My surgeon instructed me to wear elastics from my top jaw to my bottom jaw. Very thick elastics, I might add. He gave me a little packet with more elastics in it and had me schedule an appointment for the following week. All was well. For a few minutes.
As soon as I was in the car and had view of a mirror, my heart began to sink. The issue of my lips not coming together didn’t sort out with the removal of the splint and wires, so my relaxed pose was with my lips hanging open. If I smiled, all you could see was my upper gums. My upper jaw jutted out, almost like buck teeth. I looked like a bunny or a gerbil, and it was incredibly unattractive.
The purpose of the surgery was not aesthetic, but to fix my jaw so I could eat. I just had to keep reminding myself of that, no matter how disheartening it was to have gone through 10+ years of orthodontic work to end up with a smile I couldn’t be proud of. Whatever. If I could eat, that was far more important than looking pretty.
But I couldn’t eat, not yet. I wasn’t experiencing any benefits of the surgery. When I tried to use a straw (something I couldn’t do with the splint in), I had to use my hands to push my upper lip down and over the straw. Eating even ice cream or soup was difficult since not only could I barely open my mouth enough to fit the spoon, but I also couldn’t bring my lips to meet the utensil. That’s not how things are supposed to work.
Something was wrong with the elastics, too. Once I was home and could take a closer look, I saw one of the posts the elastics hooked onto was broken and tilting outward. It poked into my cheek and probably affected other things, too. This was bad news. (We’re not going to question why my surgeon didn’t notice this when he put the elastics in.)
I talked to my surgeon’s office, who told me to talk to my orthodontist to get it fixed. I took a day off work to make the earliest possible appointment, a week later. Until then, I wore the elastic on the adjacent post as instructed. As if things weren’t unfortunate enough, my surgeon only gave me 3 pairs of elastics. In other words, I had to reuse elastics. Gross.
Though he didn’t say so to me, it was clear my orthodontist wasn’t pleased with the outcome of the surgery, either. He apparently said as much to my surgeon, which I quickly discovered when I saw him a few days later.
I had to leave work early for this appointment. Once there, I told my surgeon the issues I’ve been having, namely the whole upper-lip-not-long-enough part and that the right side of my jaw didn’t seem to be healing. He had nothing to say about the latter, but told me the former was a cosmetic issue and he couldn’t help me with it.
So he looks at me, finally, and tells me to bite. I do so. He took one look and began yelling at me, telling me I’ve not been doing my part, I’ve not been wearing my elastics, I didn’t get to the orthodontist soon enough, I didn’t call him the second I noticed my bite had changed, and so on. No, I’m not exaggerating about any of that, not even when I said ‘yelling.’
I tried to explain I had worn the 6 elastics he gave me as much as I possibly could, got to the orthodontist as soon as I possibly could, and hadn’t even noticed my bite had changed at all (I refer you to the fact that my gums were and are still completely numb).
He wouldn’t have any of that. He continued to yell, accuse me of neglect, and informed me that I would have the joy of having my mouth wired shut for the second time.
Grabbing wires, he began unceremoniously threading them across the posts in my mouth and sealing my mouth shut. He then turned to my mother, who had interjected to stand up for me, and started yelling at HER.
Again, I’m not exaggerating when I say he was yelling.
That continued until we left. On the bright side, this round of wires does not include the splint, which means I can actually breathe, talk, and drink like a normal person. I’m not completely coherent when I talk, but it’s plenty to get by.
That appointment was on Monday. It is now Thursday. I have to see my surgeon every-other day, missing half a day of work each time. My appointment yesterday lasted about two minutes, long enough for him to tell me he may need to put me in the splint again. My jaws aren’t lined up horizontally anymore (they were BEFORE surgery!), so the center point of my bottom jaw is over to the left compared to that of my top jaw. I see him again tomorrow afternoon. Hoping for good news, but I’ve learned my lesson on expectations.
I expected this surgery to be the end-all for my orthodontic work. Just the surgery, some recovery time, then a few more months of braces and DONE!
I expected my surgeon to be respectable and considerate.
I expected to be able to work while in a splint.
I expected things to get easier once the splint was off.
I think what frustrates me more than anything else, is how all these expectations were proven wrong. While I can see the silver lining (I’ll be happy when it’s over, it won’t last forever, I should be able to eat sandwiches when it’s all done…), it would be easier had I started with a mind void of predictions. Instead, I can’t help but compare my situation to how I thought it would be, and that is what makes me want a time machine. Or perhaps fine a way to assume the life of the me in another universe… you know, the one who didn’t have to go through any of this in the first place?