My Double Jaw Surgery: The 4th Week After
Four weeks after my double jaw advancement surgery to treat sleep apnea has shown some interesting changes in my profile, with an improvement in the jaw and neck line. Things weren't looking so great at the one week mark, but with swelling that was to be expected. I expect there will still be some minor improvements in the next few months as well.
This last week has been another busy one. Being back into the full swing of life with a full work and family schedule so soon after a major surgery is hectic and tiring, but also helps me to mostly ignore the post-surgery annoyances that my face and mouth are still going through. These are jaw pain (TMJ/TMD), parasthesia, altered taste, a hole in my palate going into my nose (called an oronasal fistula), and limited mouth opening. So in some ways I welcome my crazy schedule, as it is an effective distraction technique.
I'd like to elaborate a bit further on these issues. The jaw pain continues, but to a lesser degree now that I am only wearing the elastics (the tiny rubber bands used in conjunction with braces) during the day. These do cause a continuous mild throbbing toothache on the teeth that the elastics are attached to (well, at least on the teeth that aren't numb still), but I can mostly ignore this during the day while thinking about other things. So I am thankful to no longer be wearing them at night, and it has provided an improvement in sleep quality.
The parasthesia has become less prominent over the month since surgery. The first two weeks so much of my mouth and face felt numb, cold, thick, and enlarged. It constantly felt like I had just left the dental office. Over the past two weeks I've seen significant improvements in the overall extent of the numbness, as well as in the quality of the numbness. The areas of complete numbness have gotten smaller and are now limited to my entire palate and an area on the lower left chin. But even those areas now feel less thick and enlarged than they previously did, and so are less annoying.
My maximum mouth opening has improved a bit, as I'm up to a one inch opening now. Average for adults is about 2 inches, but varies widely depending upon size of the person as well as size of the mouth. I was previously limited to drinking foods or eating with a baby spoon, but now I can at least fit a normal size spoon in my mouth, although I still need to take fairly small bites and feel like I am really making an effort to open wide while doing so. Eating has become slightly easier, but I still have a very odd feeling that there is a large appliance in my mouth, much like I imagine a first-time denture wearer to have. I am wearing an upper retainer, but that's not what I'm feeling. It actually feels like there is something thick extending upwards under my upper lip. And with the numb palate, I can hardly feel my upper teeth - they basically have no proprioception and feel like wood. So it feels like I'm wearing a wooden denture. Very odd. Although again, this is something that bothers me less than it did even a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately I still have a decreased taste sensation, especially with non-liquids. It's a little like being pregnant, where some foods that you know you love just aren't the same once you put them in your mouth... I've found that extra sea salt and other seasonings help though.
The fistula has shown improvement, as it is coming down in size. The addition of some denture reline material under the upper retainer helped to block food and water from going through the hole, which should allow the nasal mucosa to start filling that hole in.
Some other fun things I added into my healing modalities this week were massage and art therapy. For massage, Ive been doing my own self-massage on my face since shortly after surgery, but this week I went in for a professional massage. I couldn't lay face down because of the pressure it would exert around my face and jaw, but I was still able to have my neck and shoulders worked on, which were in desperate need of some attention after the last month.
For art therapy, I worked on a whimsical decorative piece:
There's something to be said for taking a little time to make something pretty. It can be meditative.
Keep an eye out for the 5 week update soon.