Nerve damage

28 Jan

I’ve mentioned a few times that I think that my jaw fracture resulted in permanent nerve damage on the left side of my face. For the most part, I notice this as a sort of tingly numbness when I touch the left side of my face with my finger. A friend of mine who is a medical student confirmed to me that most people with nerve damage report a tingling feeling in the area.

I’ve mapped out the approximate region where the tingling occurs in the following photograph of the left side of my face. As you might guess, the tingly region is the big blue spot. In some places, it’s a more intense tingling feeling than others, but I decided that it would be too hard to color code the region by the intensity of the feeling.

Asymmetry update

29 Dec

I mentioned in my last post on facial asymmetry a study that found that facial asymmetry increased over time in patients who had broken jaws treated by maxillomandibular fixation (MMF, colloquially known as wiring the jaw). As such, I thought it would make sense to post updates on my own asymmetry here. It’s now almost 9 months after my accident. Nine months isn’t one of the times for which the aforementioned study reported data, but it’s when I’m getting around to doing this.

Here’s my closed mouth.

It looks roughly the same as last time. Now, here’s my mouth with my lips opened but my teeth still closed.

This time, it appears that my lips are opening slightly further on the left side than on the right side.

Here’s my mouth opened slightly.

Here, it seems that the asymmetry in my teeth (largely a product of my repaired tooth on the upper right side being smaller than its neighbor to the left) is more noticeable than any asymmetry in the way my mouth is opening.

Now, here’s me moving my lower jaw as far as I can to the left.

That’s even further than I was able to move it last time. However, I still can’t really move it visibly to the right.

Finally, it looks like I can open my mouth a little bit further than last time, but the asymmetry is now perhaps even more pronounced than last time.

Opening my mouth like that, by the way, is actually fairly painful. It’s certainly nothing unbearable, but I do feel a sharp pain in the left side of my face near the site of the fracture.

A return to normalcy

8 Nov

I think that due to the relatively gradual nature of my improvement, my prior posts might the extent to which things have returned to normal since the accident. Thus, I thought I’d write a post about which things are normal and which are not.

At this point, I would say that from a functional perspective, my jaw is normal. I can bite and chew anything I want to eat without feeling any pain. I can also talk normally (as I have since getting my jaw unwired at the end of April).

A few things are not normal, but these are of lesser practical importance. The facial asymmetries persist (and I expect that they will be permanent). I also don’t have normal feeling on much of the left side of my face, and I don’t know whether that will get any better with time. It feels weird, but I’ve been used to it for months.

There are a couple of things I’m not sure about, too. I don’t know whether my mouth opens as far as it did before the accident. My guess is that it does not open quite as far, but it’s hard to say because I didn’t think I had any reason to measure my opening before the accident.  I also think there might be some minor swelling in my left ear (near the site of the fracture). After the accident, the area was quite swollen, resulting in noticeable pressure in my ear. It definitely feels much better right now than it did six months ago, but it’s hard for me to tell whether the pressure has gone away completely.

Cracking jaw

21 Oct

The last few weeks, I’ve noticed a cracking sound coming from the left side of my jaw perhaps a few times a day when opening my mouth. It’s not painful or anything, but it is definitely audible.

A little update

27 Sep

I haven’t written any new posts lately because I’ve continued to not have much real news. There are a few things worth mentioning, though:

  • A few weeks ago, I noticed an improvement in the feeling on the left side of my face. This wasn’t all good, though, because it meant that I would get occasional pain near the site of the fracture.
  • Over the last week or so, I’ve been hearing a sort of creaking sound when I open my mouth. I don’t know whether that’s a bad thing.
  • On September 10, I received another copy of my bill from Berkeley Emergency Medical Group, dated September 3, with a letter threatening to take it to collections if I didn’t pay within 3 days. I had already tried emailing them my insurance information twice, and they didn’t reply to either email. Their threat was enough to get me to call on the phone, and so far it seems that the call was sufficient to avoid collections.

I’m a terrible blogger

23 Aug

I haven’t updated in way too long, but that’s largely because not much has changed. Here’s what has changed since my last update:

  • The feeling on the left side of my face is a little bit more normal. The occasional sharp pains have become less frequent. I don’t know whether I should expect this to get any better than it already is.
  • The tenderness around the site of the fracture has gone away.
  • Since the accident, I have experienced (but apparently have forgotten to write about) some pain in my left ear. I’ve generally assumed it was a result of swelling around the fracture. This hasn’t gone away completely, but it is a lot better than it was for a while.

As for billing, not much is going on. I paid my $25 bill from Alta Bates. I also received another copy of the bill from Berkeley Emergency Medical Group, and responded by sending them the information for the insurance that they had neglected to bill.

Old news

19 Jul

On the right sidebar, you’ll now see links to my Broken jaw recovery guide and Recovery timeline. These are intended to condense information from the blog in a way that might make the information easier to absorb. They actually went up last weekend, but I figured they’re worth a mention here.

As always, suggestions or questions are welcome in the comments (or by email).

What’s the first thing you should do after you break your jaw?

18 Jul

Start a blog, obviously. If you must insist, you can go ahead and seek medical attention first, but I do hope that you’ll consider publicly documenting your recovery.

When I first learned that my jaw would be wired shut for three weeks, I had a lot of questions about the road ahead. I wondered about things like how I would eat, how I could keep my teeth clean, and whether I’d be able to teach my classes. My oral surgeon and dentist gave me some answers, but I wanted to hear from people who had been in my position. I didn’t know anybody who had broken his or her jaw before, so I turned to the internet. Google turned up a few accounts, but these were generally either forum posts focusing on a single aspect of the recovery or summaries with only the most general information.

I started this blog because I wanted to document my recovery in a way that might be useful to others with similar injuries. I aimed to share everything that I learned and experienced through my recovery, just on the chance that it might help somebody else at a later time. Looking back, though, I didn’t do a particularly good job of it. Somehow, I neglected to take any pictures of my mouth while it was wired shut, and I wrote relatively little about food. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a bad blogger and that this is a bad blog, but it’s a reflection of the fact that having a broken jaw can be overwhelming, and it’s not really possible for one person to write about everything that’s relevant to the topic.

It is also the case that people’s experiences with broken jaws will differ. Different people break their jaws in different places, recover differently, and have different daily routines that are affected in different ways. This level of diversity ensures that anyone with a broken jaw is uniquely qualified to add something to the understanding of broken jaws.

As for the practicality of starting your own blog, their are a number of sites that will run a blog for free. This blog is currently on Another popular service is Google’s Blogger. These days, I’m also seeing an increasing number of blogs on tumblr, but my knowledge of that service is minimal. I honestly don’t really know how these three services stack up against each other, and I don’t think it matters much. All of them are more than sufficient for communicating information.

Finally, if you do decide to start your own blog, please send me the URL, either by leaving a comment or by email, so that I can add it to my blogroll.

Facial asymmetry

17 Jul

As I mentioned last weekend, my jaw has healed in such a way as to compromise my facial symmetry. As promised, here are some more details. Note that all of the photos here, like most photographs, are mirror images.

The asymmetry is least obvious when my mouth and lips are closed. My chin looks a little bit slanted, but my lips look fairly normal.

Closed mouth

When I open my lips but leave my teeth together, the asymmetry becomes a little bit more visible. My lips open a little bit further on the right side than the left side.


It becomes more obvious as soon as I open my teeth. My lips open significantly further on the right side than on the left side, and my repaired teeth are  smaller than my natural teeth.

Mouth narrowly open

One of the more striking asymmetries is seen when I move my lower jaw as far as I can to the left…
Lower jaw to left
…and then to the right.
Lower jaw to right
No, I didn’t upload the wrong photo for that last one, I just can’t move my mandible visibly to the right.

Finally, here’s my wide open mouth. The picture’s a little bit deceiving because my head isn’t quite straight, but there is some serious asymmetry. My mouth opens considerably wider on the right side, and this is visible not only in my slanted chin, but the different amounts of tooth visible on the left and right side.

Wide open mouth

Unlike some of the other little remaining signs of the accident, this isn’t something I expect to go away. I’ve read much of a study (subscription required) by Edward Ellis and Gaylord Throckmorton in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery found that patients who had condylar mandibular fractures treated by closed methods developed shortening of the face (measured from x-rays of the facial bones). Ellis and Throckmorton found that asymmetry in patients with closed treatment tended to increase somewhat over time rather than decrease. One caveat is that their study didn’t include any patients treated by maxillomandibular fixation (MMF) as I was, but they speculate that patients whose jaws were wired might develop even more asymmetry than the ones in their study. Thus, I don’t think this asymmetry will be going away unless I should fracture the right condyle.

Fourteen week billing update

13 Jul

I haven’t received any billing-related mail in the last week, so this is something of a non-update. I don’t mind not receiving bills, of course, but this is not quite as good as learning that my insurance has paid the outstanding balances.

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