Recovery Road: Jaw Edition
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Health and Wellness

Recovery Road: Jaw Edition

Healing your body is hard, but you have to heal your mind, too.

Recovery Road: Jaw Edition

My teeth have been an issue since my first trip to the dentist. Being born without two front teeth (my top lateral incisors, if you will) and an underbite, serious mouth reconstruction was in the cards for me as soon as my dentist asked me to open my mouth. I got braces on before anyone else I knew, and at the ripe age of ten, having a mouth full of metal was cool. Then suddenly, it was not. I had countless contraptions put in my mouth: a palette expander, headgear I had to wear while sleeping, several baby teeth taken out before they were ready, all in desperate hopes to both straighten my teeth and fix my underbite before I was fully developed. By sixth grade, my teeth were straight and as beautiful as could be. But the underbite? That was still there.

I managed to squeeze through the ugly pre-teen/early teen years without braces, unlike my classmates, which was nice. But the possibility of jaw reconstructive surgery always loomed far away in the future, and by the time I was seventeen all of my dental doctors confirmed that surgery really was the only option. I begged to not get braces on my senior year, I didn't want to go through my last year of high school when everyone had finally Glo'd Up to only go in reverse. I stalled as long as I could and got braces on the November of my freshman year at college. Definitely not ideal, but hey, I looked cute at prom!

Fast-forward to right now, and I have two weeks left of my jaw being wired shut. Four weeks ago I had surgery, where work was done on both my maxillary and mandibular bones. The swelling has officially gone down and the soreness has subsided to only kicking in when I do something to aggravate my mouth (I've always clenched my teeth while sleeping, I can't help it!). I've been on a "liquids only" diet and because of a splint between my teeth, I haven't been able to talk and simultaneously have people understand what I'm saying. To say the least, it has been a difficult month.

The first two weeks were the most painful and uncomfortable weeks of my life, and my face was swollen to the point where I didn't recognize myself anymore. It was terrifying, because those two things made me unsure of whether the surgery was worth it. I mean, I had a five hour surgery done on my face, the only thing that was for certain was that my jaw would be corrected. I had no way of guessing how I would look, which scared me the most. I remember the night I had to stay in the hospital during one of my many bathroom trips, my drugged out self looked in the mirror and was mortified by what I saw. My nose was bleeding profusely from my sinuses being bothered during the surgery, there was a tube up my nose that went down to my stomach to suck up all the blood I was swallowing from the cuts made in my mouth, and I was so swollen and bruised that the girl I saw in the reflection looked like an alien. I remembered thinking over and over: Why on earth did I agree to do this?

The one big lesson I learned during my recovery time was the age old saying: "Mind over matter." Yes, it's cliché, but it has rang true throughout the entire process. Unable to communicate with other people except through writing, I was truly stuck in my own head with my own thoughts. There was a lot of times I really needed to cry, but it was too painful to do so. I had to learn to calm myself down and keep my spirits high, because that was all I had. When I looked in the mirror and saw cheeks swelled into balls and eyes that were no longer bright and lively, I had to look away and tell myself it was only temporary. No matter how much your situation may suck, no matter how hungry or sore you may be, you are the only thing you have. Your body and your mind are the only things that will remain constant throughout your life. You have to keep yourself safe, happy, and calm as best you can when you are faced with adversity, whether it's physical or mental.

It turns out that the only noticeable difference so far is that space between the bottom of my nose and my mouth is fuller, which is exactly what my surgeon said would happen since most of the work to made my jaw go into an overbite was done there. I'm still wired shut so I don't really know what my smile looks like yet or what I'll look like when I'm doing things with my face besides keeping my mouth shut, but my hopes are high. I like the way everything turned out so far.

My recovery isn't fully over yet, and my first non-liquid meal is still two weeks away. But my eyes are green and bright again, and I can smile wide without feeling pain. I now catch my reflection in the mirror and see the same beautiful girl that was there before, only she's gotten just a little more prettier to me. It's a nice feeling to know that dark tunnels have a light at the end. That's always something worth celebrating.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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