Jaw Surgery

I am deficient in immunoglobulin A, and this makes me more prone to cysts than the rest of the population.

I had such a cyst in my front lower jaw removed when I was seven. The cyst had mangled my permanent teeth so badly that two were not usable and ended up being removed. So I have been missing my two front lower teeth for a long time.

Usually, what they do when there is a mismatch in teeth like that is to pull the matching teeth on the opposite jaw. In this case, however, that would have meant losing two of my upper front four teeth. That would have looked pretty funny.

I also have big teeth for my mouth. Again, usually they pull teeth in such a circumstance, but here it wasn't clear what to do.

I also had what is called an "open bite"; my front teeth didn't touch. All of my contact was on the back molars, which look like they belonged to an 80-year old Aluet woman who spent her days chewing walrus skin. They don't look like The Rockies, they look like The Appalacians.

If I'd had any one of these problems, it probably could have been dealt with fine with braces. All of them together just meant trouble. I had endured nine years of braces, and my mouth still didn't work right.

So on Dec 12, 1990, I had jaw surgery. They lengthened the lower jaw and raised the back of the upper jaw, so my teeth finally met properly.

For the upper jaw, they cut a wedge out of the bone above my teeth, with the wedge thicker above my molars than in front. Then they sort of sewed it back together with what looks like baling wire. (My teeth never left my mouth; the palete was intact the whole time.)

For the upper jaw, they cut the bone in a sort of double-L shape on each side, slid the Ls down a little way, then put metal pins through the bone.

The most unpleasant thing about the surgery was the facial swelling that occured over the next week. Breathing was hard. Moving my head was hard. I was unable to do much of anything except lie on my back in bed.

I was also totally unrecognizable. Not only did I not look like Ducky, I didn't look like a woman, and barely looked like a human being. It was not fun.

The jaw surgery also somehow gave me MORE pain in my temporo-mandibular joint, not less. :-( I guess these things happen, but it was not fun. I was on a liquid diet for something like 11 out of the next 13 months.

Surprisingly, the thing that fixed my jaw pain was a car accident where the car got spun around. Immediately after the accident, I noticed that my jaw didn't hurt any more! It was at that point when I decided that chiropractors were not witch doctors. (Note: I do not recommend getting in a car accident as a way to solve jaw pain. It gave me other pain. A chiropractor would be much safer than a car accident!)

The good news is that now I seem to be problem-free and eating very happily. :-)

There is a good page on jaw surgery done by the Orthodontic Cyberjournal. I don't really have anything more to say about my jaw surgery, so writing to me is probably useless.

Kaitlin Duck Sherwood