Undergoing jaw surgery is a daunting experience that has lasting effects on your life. Read on to find out more about Gordon’s successful jaw surgery experience. We hope it helps you make a decision on whether to proceed with this extremely challenging surgery.
First off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m a 22 year old University student living in Toronto, Canada. I decided to align myself towards dental school after this eye(and jaw) opening experience and am currently taking a 5th year to fulfill the right prerequisites.
I’m a health guru studying Kinesiology and I follow the NBA like it’s my job. I’d consider myself a thrill seeker, enjoy outdoor activities, and eventually want to travel the world. Just recently I went to Europe for 3 weeks, and completed the ‘Tough Mudder’ obstacle course. I started blogging for my own personal records, and decided to share my experience on the internet. I had double jaw surgery after the summer of my 3rd year(21 years old) to fix my underbite, and little did I know I had plenty of tweaks to be made!
You went through this jaw surgery as a 3rd year university student – what made you decide to go through this this late in life?
I had been made aware of my underbite when I was around age 13/14 by my dentist. As a male, I was told that bone growth typically ends around age 21-22, with the facial bones being the last ones to mineralize. It was necessary that I didn’t have this surgery during high school or I could have risked my jaw growing back out! While this did push my jaw surgery until I was 21, it never really bothered me until I really started thinking about it a few months before.
Can you explain a little about what needed to be done and how long it took?
Without going into too much detail, I got both of my upper and lower jaws done because the gap between my teeth (1.7mm) was too big to be fixed with only 1 jaw surgery. My lower jaw was brought backwards, and my upper jaw was brought forwards. My bite also had some asymmetry so it needed to be lined up as well. Originally, I thought that would be all the work needed! It turned out that my upper jaw needed to be widened and my nose and chin would be re-aligned. The craziest part? My Oral Surgeon completed this surgery in under 3 hours, and I was his fourth case of the morning (He saved the best for last as he told me).
For more details, visit Gordon’s page here.
How did you choose your orthodontist and jaw surgeons?
My orthodontist was picked mainly because my mom used to go to him as a child, so I feel like we went there out of anecdotal comfort. He referred me to 2 oral surgeons, Dr. Caminetti and Dr. Tocchio. I went to Dr. Tocchio first because we were able to book an appointment with him. After the initial consultation I felt very comfortable with him, and a few internet searches convinced me that this guy was the one to choose since he was well established. Maybe it’s a Toronto thing, but it boils down to these 2 surgeons, and I went with my gut (and what the internet told me).
Jaw surgery can be tough to deal with post-op. How did you cope and what tips do you have for other readers?
First and foremost, the sites that kept me sane throughout jaw surgery were:
Is an awesome blog that inspired me to create my own. Graham does a fantastic job and I highly suggest everyone read this, whether you are having single jaw surgery, double jaw surgery, or just want something to read.
These are the 2 forums I used to ask questions and see what other ‘jaw enthusiasts’ are thinking pre/during/post recovery. I found a high amount of useful tips and tricks to getting through jaw surgery here.
One common theme I find with those going through jaw surgery is that we all need a way to vent or express our concern to somebody. This is a huge life decision that you’ll want to update somebody on, or will want to share with others. We all understand this, and on these forums you’ll find other people at different stages of their journey. The jaw surgery community is the most supportive group of people that you can connect to, and I highly, highly, recommend being part of it and sharing what you can. This can be recovery tips, advice to others, surgeon recommendations, or even picture updates of other’s progress. You’re not alone!
After surgery, the majority of my facial nerves were numb, however I credited it to the fact that I just had surgery. During the following few days/weeks, most of the feelings and sensations came back pretty quickly except for a lower region of my face beside my chin. From what both my orthodontist and surgeon had told me, you need to give upwards of 1-2 years before a nerve completely heals, or doesn’t.
At this point, I still don’t have that sensation and have ceded that I won’t get that feeling back again. While that does sound unnerving (ha), it really isn’t that bad. For one, my surgery was quite extensive and nerve damage was almost expected. Honestly, having no nerves in this area has zero impact on your life. The muscles move my mouth the same (there’s no drooping), the nerves around that area still work, therefore I live life like everyone else. The one difference is that if food does land in that particular area (maybe a thumb’s surface area of space), it sits there in no man’s land and I am at risk for ridicule. I expect a family dinner photo to be ruined in the future years.
Jaw surgery is one of the best weight loss programs available – whether you want to lose weight or not. Any tips and tricks to readers for keeping that weight on?
Since University, I’ve been paying attention to my diet and working out 4-5 times a week. Ironically this was my greatest concern going into recovery, and I never expected it to be such a battle. I learned that I will never take solid food for granted again. This was the fastest 20 pounds I’ve ever lost in 3-6 days, and while some people may think that’s great, I can’t see that being ever good for your body. Here’s what I recommend.
Drink at least 2L of fluids a day. If you need to get it in via syringe, spend the time sucking it in when in front of your bathroom mirror. You get better with practice, don’t give up since this is your only job during recovery. During your first few days, you’ll find only water, apple juice, and other thin juices can get down because your stomach has been unfairly treated. Once you can drink thicker drinks through that small space in your mouth, get creative with your blender, or ‘Magic Bullet’. I found milkshakes could be made by adding fruits, peanut butter, nutella, protein powder, ice cream, you name it. Chocolate banana bread was an excellent addition to my protein shakes : ) Meals with chicken, fish, vegetables, and chicken broth are also excellent for something salty. Just make sure to add plenty of fiber in these drinks and it will help balance out the high amounts of liquids. This can be done by mixing plenty of vegetables into the meat broths. This is the best way to get your protein in, and hopefully help you retain your muscle.
You had a chance to shadow your jaw surgeon over a day. What was it like being on the other side?
Spending the day with Dr. Tocchio was an excellent experience that has pushed my interest even farther into the dentistry field. While it isn’t for everyone, I was completely enamored by him pulling out wisdom teeth and making incisions into someone’s mouth. The amount of focus, concentration, and composure that Dr. Tocchio demonstrated gave me comfort that he was just as diligent when working on my own mouth. I also have a lot of respect for the high level of professionalism and care that his staff show, while still being personal. It was a fun experience and I definitely would like to be doing something similar one day.
It’s now been a little over a month since you’ve had your braces off. How’s life now and was the 439 days worth it?
The feeling of getting braces off was the icing to this whole experience, and the 439 days of recovery made it ever so sweet. For a solid week I was riding a high of continuously licking my teeth, chewing gum, overflossing, and smiling. Thankfully I have maintained good dental hygiene and my teeth came out of the process bright white. Compared to someone wearing braces just to straighten their teeth, the addition of double jaw surgery made the un-bracing incredible. While I hate saying this, double jaw surgery has almost become a thing of the past, I have moved on to everything life has to offer, and I can do it with a perfect smile. The amount of compliments I have received on my teeth is unreal. Pride in my teeth is something I’ve never had before, and that’s all because of this surgery.
Any final words of wisdom for those looking to go through the same thing?
If your dentist/orthodontist/oral surgeon recommends surgery, do it. I approached jaw surgery as “a thing that had to be done, and everyone comes out better for it.” Under this mindset, I basically hopped into the operating room and was ready to go. There’s nothing to stress about, since many have done this before, just browse the support on the forums!
One last warning, or bit of advice. Learning about your jaw and the recovery process is addicting and is something you will begin paying a lot of attention to in life. For example, walking around campus I will notice “hey that girl has nice teeth”, or “that guy has an overdeveloped bite” which is really quite odd. Not until recently would I watch a movie and then completely miss out on the plot because the main character’s bite is perfect. It’s just one of the few side effects.