I called the oral surgeon’s office as soon as they opened at 8AM. They were able to make an 11AM appointment for me, but they told me that I should get a referral from University Health Services (UHS) so that my student health insurance plan would cover treatment. I called UHS, and they told me that I should come to urgent care to get my authorization.
I very much resented being required to get this authorization. It seemed ridiculous that they couldn’t just trust the emergency room doctor’s word that I needed to see an oral surgeon. I spent the better part of an hour waiting at UHS before seeing a nurse and then a doctor. The nurse took my temperature and my blood pressure (both were normal) and asked me a few questions about my accident and the injuries. She showed me a piece of paper with faces showing various levels of discomfort and had me rate my pain according to the numbers labeling the faces. However, there were two sets of labels, one from 1-10, and one from 0-5. I didn’t ask which one she wanted me to use, but I said my pain was about a 2. For the most part, my injuries have been a bit uncomfortable, but not particularly painful. The doctor looked at my various injuries and had another nurse bandage my scrapes. This actually made me rather glad to have come in because I had so many scrapes and not enough energy to bandage all of them. The nurse also gave me material for dressing my wounds for the next five days before I go back to get my stitches removed. I left with a bill of $15.60 not covered by insurance. Most of that was for the bandages the nurse had given me, which were $55 before insurance (and $11 after).
About an hour after getting out of UHS, I had my appointment with the oral surgeon. He seemed nice and friendly without being intrusive (and, as a somewhat shy individual, I’ve found a lot of medical professionals to be intrusive). He showed me my x-rays, and explained my fracture, a condyle mandibular fracture. I was mildly disgusted when he told me that the model skull on which he was pointing out the condyle, a thin part of the mandible near the joint, was a real human skull, and I became altogether horrified when he removed the jaw from the skull and asked me to hold it. He told me that the condyle fracture was a common type of fracture, which usually was treated without open surgery. The usual treatment was to anesthetize the patient, prod the bone back into place, and wire the jaw shut for a few weeks. In a small proportion of cases, however, this doesn’t work, so an open surgery is necessary. He added that there was a small number of cases in which it isn’t necessary to wire the jaw shut; sometimes the bone will stay in place well enough that it is sufficient to keep the patient on a liquid diet. He didn’t specify any time frame for the liquid diet, so I asked if this liquid diet would be for the rest of the patient’s life. “No, just a few weeks.” he answered, laughing.
In my case, the surgeon said, it will be necessary to wait a few days until my face is less swollen to do anything. He wasn’t sure whether it will be necessary to wire my jaw, and he won’t know until he has me asleep in the office. He told me he would have his receptionist call me in the afternoon to set up an appointment.
The oral surgeon also expressed concern about my two chipped front teeth. I told him that I was planning on having them fixed, but I thought that the broken jaw was a more pressing concern. He agreed, but said that I should have a dentist put a temporary seal on it. He said that since I had only lived in the area for seven months, he couldn’t imagine that I would have had any reason to find a dentist by now. I was more than a little bit amused by this, having long been told that I should have a dentist clean my teeth every six months. I said, that I had, in fact, found a dentist, and I told him who it was. The oral surgeon told me that my dentist was a great dentist, and then made an appointment with the dentist for me that afternoon.
I also asked the oral surgeon if he had any suggestions for keeping my mouth clean if my mouth were wired shut. He suggested getting a children’s toothbrush and Sensodyne toothpaste. I wasn’t crazy about the Sensodyne suggestion, but I decided to get a children’s toothbrush to use with my usual Tom’s of Maine toothpaste.
I had plenty of time to get to the dentist’s office, but somehow I still ended up running to catch the bus to get there. This certainly wasn’t a good thing for me to be doing with broken jaw, but I didn’t fall, and I did catch the bus. When I got to the dentist’s office, he put a seal on one of the teeth, which he said almost had a nerve exposed. He said that both of the teeth were only chipped in the outermost layers, and he expects that they will be fixable. However, we’ll have to watch them carefully, and they may end up needing root canal work.
I repeated the question about keeping my teeth clean to the dentist, and he suggested a Water Pik, so I added that to my shopping list, too.
About twenty minutes after I got out of the dentist’s office, I got a call from the receptionist at the oral surgeon’s office. She told me that the next two appointments available were Wednesday of this week and Tuesday of next week. She added that she’d have to check with the surgeon to see if Wednesday would be too soon and call me back later. She also told me I’d need a friend to drive me home from the procedure, so I headed into the office to find somebody who could do that for me.
I was relieved to learn when the receptionist called me back a couple of hours later that the surgeon will be able to do the procedure on Wednesday. Although I’m not in pain most of the time, there are enough positions that are quite painful, that I’d really like to get it done as soon as possible. After scheduling the appointment, the surgeon transferred me to another member of the office staff, who told me that their office didn’t contract with either of my health insurers, and she told me the cost of the service, which was just under $3700. I knew that my insurance would cover some of the costs, even if it was out of network, but I wondered why I was referred to an out-of-network doctor in the first place. I know I’ll be able to afford whatever it costs, but of course I’d rather pay for as little as possible.