The third week after my double jaw surgery (maxillary and mandibular advancement) to treat my sleep apnea has been an eventful one. I started back to work on my normal schedule as a periodontist, so healing is no longer my full time job. Plus, I've been going to the gym regularly and being more active with the kids, so I'm back to being a more involved parent as well, and haven't had as much time to dedicate to all of my interesting biohacks. A biohacker, by the way, is one who manipulates the internal and external environmental factors to seize control of their own biology. Which is exactly what I've been trying to do - hack the healing process to optimize it.
My biohacks so far have been many. I've touched on most of these in previous posts, but keep an eye out for a more in-depth discussion on these in the future.
Here are the biohacks that I have been utilizing fairly regularly:
-LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet with emphasis on food quality - I have been very strict with this
-Bone broth (a great source of collagen) daily, either plain or mixed into soup
-A variety of supplements
-Cold therapy (ice bath for the face and cold showers)
-Use of a laser for biostimulation
-Clay masks to draw out toxins
-Uriel Tones (sound frequency therapy)
-Full body vibration plate
-CBD (helps with pain and sleep)
-Coconut charcoal (detoxification)
-Arnica (to decrease bruising and swelling)
Here's the list of biohacks that I have done in the past few weeks, but not on a regular basis (either because I don't own them or just find them less convenient to do):
-HRV training (heart rate variability)
-UVB tanning to increase vitamin D
-Far infrared sauna for detoxification
So far, I do believe that the things I've done have helped me to heal relatively quickly. My swelling came down fairly quickly after surgery, and the residual numbness around my lips and chin has come back fairly well around 3/4 of my mouth. I do have an area of complete parasthesia still around my lower right chin and lip. To me this is a combined sensation of cold and thickness. Plus, it causes me to be a very messy eater, as I have no idea if I have anything on my face. But when I use my Nd:YAG laser for biostimulation, I can feel interesting sensations in the area that are like small waves of non-painful electricity along the pathway of the nerve, which tells me that something is waking up in the area.
A side effect of the numbness that I haven't mentioned before is my decrease in taste perception. I would estimate that it's about 60% of normal. It's less noticeable with liquids, but as I have started to add soft mushy foods into my diet (like eggs) I've found it to be more apparent.
The jaw pain (TMJ/TMD) has still been pulling me out of my sleep cycle on a regular basis, although I have noticed some improvements in this as well. I've got the rented hospital bed nearly flat now, with just a slight lift of the head of the bed, and am anticipating going back to my own bed soon.
As I mentioned above, I did start back at work after 2 full weeks off for healing. Here I am in scrubs to prove it.
The first two days I was fully functional and alert, although it was fairly difficult to have a conversation as I still had the upper splint in place. It was so bulky that it did not give much room for my tongue, making many sounds come out slurred and with a heavy lisp, with some lovely spitting as well. So I tried my best to keep talking to a minimum, but this is easier said than done. It was challenging and tiring to say the least. I was pretty spent by the time I got home, and all of the talking temporarily exacerbated the jaw pain.
Thankfully, my orthodontist, Dr. Camille Walker, had rushed an upper retainer for me and gave it to me after my second day at work. This meant she was able to permanently remove the dreaded splint, and replace it with a retainer with an acrylic palate on it, that I would wear all the time other than to clean it. This served two purposes. First, the acrylic palate helped to stabilize the width of the palate, which had been widened during the 2 piece LeFort 1 surgery. Second, the acrylic palate covered the oronasal fistula that had developed on my palate, and had gotten larger as food, beverages, and even just air constantly flowed through it. The retainer provided a big improvement in speech and comfort, making the other days that I worked during this week more pleasant (and less embarrassing). Not to mention that the retainer improved the aesthetics.
Plus, as you can see in the photos, my upper lip appears to be waking up more with improved mobility and function. It's definitely nice to be able to smile again, even if still an incomplete smile. But it does feel very thick and stiff, so smiling is more difficult and less natural as well.
Additionally, the splint improved my function, as it was easier to gently mash food with my actual teeth than it was to attempt to do so with a broad, flat splint. Added bonus: I could actually brush the inside of my upper teeth!
Here's the splint on the left and the retainer on the right.
A few days after getting the upper retainer, it was time to go back to my surgeon, Dr. Brett Ueeck, for the three week follow up. He evaluated the hole in my palate (the oronasal fistula) and it appeared to be slightly improved by wearing the retainer, and suggested I use a denture reline material at work to further customize to minimize any leakage of food or beverage under it. He also wanted me to start a new configuration of elastics, which are the tiny rubber bands used in orthodontics. That part is surprisingly difficult for me, as it causes a dull toothache on teeth the elastics attach to, and it also seems to exacerbate the TMJ/TMD issue. I'll be a good patient and comply though. After all, I want this to be as successful as possible.
Keep an eye out for the 4 week update soon.