Monday, September 17, 2012

Last Supper

I don't remember the exact moment when I noticed I freakishly grew an underbite. I do, however, remember having braces from 4th-8th grade. I remember crying when they installed metal spacers in my mouth and the orthodontist's assistant telling me to "buck up." I remember facing new and bizarre rubberband configurations each month when my bite started going the wrong way. And I remember being so diligent about wearing my post-braces retainers that I was often rifling through garbage cans in the cafeteria after they'd been accidentally chucked.

But this was all irrelevant. I mean, okay, teenage orthodontia shaped who I am as a person today, I'm sure, but someone could've just punched me in the mouth instead and it would've had essentially the same effect.

I am part of a select and very exclusive group of people with an awesome genetic disorder that causes our lower jaws to just keep on growing after pretty much everything else on our person has stopped. This means I didn't have an underbite as a child, but slowly grew one in late adolescence. Not knowing this at the time, I would lay in bed at night and practice trying to push my lower chin back in hopes that this would reverse my growing idiot mouth. This was very Judy Blume of me, I know.

A few years ago, I began my journey to get corrective jaw surgery. While some see it as a cosmetic procedure, my dentist informed me (casually, obviously while his hands were in my mouth) that if I elected to NOT have the surgery, I would "lose all of my teeth by the time I'm 40" because I'm using the wrong parts of my teeth to chew. SURGERY IT IS! I also get a lot of snapping and tightness in my jaws - some mornings, after a particularly aggressive night of grinding (teeth), I can only open my mouth a few inches and it sounds like angry rubberbands. Again, surgery seemed like the right choice. However, as I started to figure out the process, I got really scared - mostly of having braces again. Because adult braces at 40 are cool and brave and fun - a real "you go, girl" moment. But braces at 23 is all, "you're going to love prom!" Especially when you work with high schoolers at a Caribou.

I actually hung up on the woman who was scheduling my appointment to get braces. That might be the rudest thing I've ever done.

But after a few more years of a smile I'm not happy with and really painful jaw creepiness, I came to terms with the fact that physically pushing my jaw back before I go to bed isn't working very well. Braces went back on. The same orthodontist's assistant put in my spacers (but I was braver this time). And my surgery was scheduled for Wednesday, September 19.


This is a fairly common surgery - it is called oral maxillofacial lefort 1. Or some combination of those words. Because my underbite is not categorized as extreme and because they avoid moving the lower jaw if possible, they are actually moving my top jaw (or, rather, mouth parts?) forward. They will cut the bone above my teeth, slide it all forward, and reattach it with some metal fasteners. BORF. 

There are still a lot of things I don't know, but I do know this:
- I'll be on a six week liquid diet. This is a silver lining because at this point, the only way you could really stop me from eating is to sew my mouth shut. How convenient.
- I'll be on a soft food diet for a year or so. 
- The majority of swelling will take about a month to go down. 
- I'm not sure if I'll have my jaw wired shut or if they'll be using rubberbands to keep it fastened. Either way, sounds thrilling.

I've watched a lot of (hilarious) YouTube videos, mostly made by teenage girls who use Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" as background music, and it seems patients are universally happy with the results. Everyone says they are glad they did it. I hope I'm not the exception. 

I'll be posting some before, during and after photos/videos on here, mostly just to track my progress so I can really see how my face changes. 

From my underbitey heart,

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