Tag Archives: oral surgeon

Chewing

20 May

When I went to the oral surgeon’s office today, I was surprised that he didn’t do anything–save asking me how I was feeling–to verify that I was ready to chew again. There was no x-ray and no poking or prodding of the site of the injury. I now have medical clearance to chew everything except for “super-hard” foods. This class of excluded foods includes beef jerky, crisp apples, peanuts, pretzels, hard French bread, and carrots. The oral surgeon assured me that there is still “a ton” of food that I can eat, but my jaw just isn’t ready for the harder foods yet. I assured him that I wasn’t feeling psychologically ready for those foods yet either. Even though my jaw had felt strong for a while, I couldn’t imagine testing it on something hard yet.

The surgeon only looked at my mouth to see how far I could open it without the rubber bands, which I will no longer have to wear. He said that I still had some work to do, and he explained that in the next six weeks, we would be working on getting my mouth to open further and straighter. He instructed me to spend a couple of minutes a day just opening and closing my mouth in the mirror, making sure my chin remains straight. I’ll be returning to the oral surgeon in about three weeks, and he said that he’ll give me some more specific exercises to do if my jaw isn’t back to normal by then.

On my way back to campus from the oral surgeon’s office, I stopped for a falafel sandwich. I’ve tended to eat out very infrequently since starting graduate school, but this seemed like as good a time as any to splurge. The only difficulty in eating the falafel was getting it into my mouth, which required me to squeeze the (rather thick) sandwich a little bit. It was late to be eating lunch, and I was hungry, so I chewed and ate it quickly.

Since the first meal, I’ve been munching on various things. I’ve had a couple of different kinds of cookies, a frozen burrito, and a Trader Joe’s Spicy Spinach Pizza. The (cheeseless) pizza had been in my freezer since the week of the accident, and I found it to be a bit chewier than the ones that haven’t been frozen, so I took care to let it start to dissolve in my mouth before I chewed it. I would have liked to start cooking, but I didn’t have ingredients for anything until after I completed a shopping trip, and by then, it was late, and I was hungry. I’ll make a celebratory meal tomorrow, though.

A healed bone (I hope)

20 May

It’s been six weeks to the day since my surgery. I’m going to see the oral surgeon this afternoon, and if all goes well, he’ll find that my bone has healed and tell me that I can start chewing softer foods again. I don’t know how he’ll determine whether the bone has healed, but my guess is that he’ll take an x-ray.

Regardless of what the surgeon might say later, my jaw feels ready. There’s still a little bit of numbness in the area, and I still can’t open it all the way, but it has acquired a feeling of strength that wasn’t there a couple of weeks ago. Three weeks ago, as I approached the moment of my unwiring, my excitement was gradually replaced by nervousness, but (at least so far) that isn’t happening this time.

A corollary and a question

14 May

This morning, when the person from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts told me that no claims had ever been submitted for me, it occurred to me that this meant that the oral surgeon’s office hadn’t yet submitted a claim. This isn’t a big deal, but if they were going to wait five weeks before submitting the claim, did they really need to call me for insurance information just two hours after the procedure, while I was still sleeping off the anesthesia?

Checking in with the oral surgeon

12 May

Today was my two-week check-in with the oral surgeon, although I’ll actually only have been wireless for two weeks as of tomorrow. I went in to the appointment not expecting much to happen, and the appointment pretty much lived up to expectations. The surgeon asked if I had any problems or questions, and I mentioned to him that I’d need more rubber bands. He looked at my mouth and observed that I had done a good job putting rubber bands in. He asked if I had any more questions, and I mentioned that I had noticed that my mouth seemed to be opening a little bit further on the right side than on the left side. He had me open my mouth and close it a few times, and he told me that it looked pretty straight, but he could see what I was talking about, and that the exercises I’ll start next week will help with that.

The oral surgeon gave me some more rubber bands, “a whole bunch of them”, as he put it. These rubber bands came in a sealed plastic bag, which stood in contrast to the white paper envelopes I had received previously. I’m usually not a fan of plastics, but in this case I appreciated the difference of materials because the small paper envelopes have tended to fall apart in my pocket. The rubber bands inside were different, too. While the old ones were a yellowish color, the new ones were almost transparent. As I left, I hoped that these new rubber bands would be better quality than the ones that had been breaking so frequently over the last two weeks.

I made an appointment to return to the oral surgeon next Wednesday. After that appointment, I will no longer need to wear rubber bands, but the arch bars will remain in my mouth. If all goes well, the arch bars won’t actually be needed, but in case something should go wrong and need rubber bands again, it will be easier if the arch bars haven’t been removed. Also, I expect that after my next appointment, I’ll be able to start chewing soft foods again.

Another rubber band shortage

10 May

My next appointment with the oral surgeon is on Tuesday, and I have only one rubber band left (excluding the three that are in my mouth). The fact that the oral surgeon has twice given me only one envelope of rubber bands when the quality of the product is so low suggests, I think, that he doesn’t see many patients with injuries like mine.

Rubber band shortage

5 May

As I expected, the rubber bands weren’t enough to last me the full three weeks. In fact, I’m on the last three already. One of these three is much thicker than most of the others have been, so it restricts my jaw movements more than it probably is supposed to.

I’ll have to call the oral surgeon tomorrow morning to see if I can get more.

Minor updates

4 May

Today was a relatively uneventful day. I can only really think of a few things to comment on:

  • I tried dunking some Joe Joe’s sandwich cookies in water, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they softened very quickly. I then proceeded to eat an inordinate number of the cookies.
  • My meals were almost exactly the same as yesterday’s. The only change was substituting hummus for refried beans at lunch. In the morning, I worried that I was packing too much food for my lunch in the office, but I ended up finishing it at 10:20AM and needing to have half a serving of Vega to make it through the day.
  • The oral surgeon returned my call this morning, leaving a voicemail while I was in class. He told me that some discomfort was normal, but he didn’t answer the question of whether I should ice it. People ignoring half of my questions is a pet peeve of mine, but in this case I was less bothered by it because the discomfort had gone away already.

Rubber bands

3 May

For the three week period following the removal of my wires, I have to have rubber bands in my mouth to keep my teeth returning to the right position. Now that I’ve been wearing them for a few days, there are a few things that seem to be worth mentioning:

  • Unlike the rubber bands that I wore on my orthodontic braces in junior high, these go right at the front of my mouth. They’re probably pretty visible to people when I talk to them, although I’m not really one to be too bothered by that. Most of the people I talk to in the course of a day have some idea of what I’ve been through over the last few weeks, anyway.
  • When I first put in new rubber bands, they taste (unsurprisingly) like rubber. In case you’re wondering, I’m familiar with the taste of rubber from licking an eraser in second grade.
  • Fortunately, I am allowed to remove the rubber bands to eat. It takes some restraint on my part not to eat all the time as an excuse to leave the rubber bands out.
  • For the first day or two, after a meal I’d find that I was having trouble figuring out where my teeth should be resting, and the rubber bands were helpful in straightening things out. By now, my jaw is finding its resting position even before I get the rubber bands back in.
  • These rubber bands are very prone to breaking. I had two break in the first section I taught on Thursday and one in the last section. Often, rubber bands will break when I try to put them in for the first time. The oral surgeon only gave me a small envelope of rubber bands, and I’ll be surprised if it lasts until my next appointment (which is Tuesday of next week).
  • Yesterday, I noticed the rubber bands making some squeaking sounds when I opened my mouth wide. I wondered if this was a sign that I’m able to open my mouth further than I previously.
  • Sometimes when I’m walking around, I’ll notice that I’m clenching my teeth. I don’t know if this is because of the pressure applied by the rubber bands or because I’m used to having my jaw wired shut. I also don’t know why this only happens when I’m walking around.

The state of my mouth

2 May

I’ve been unwired for a few days, and there are a few things that seem worth mentioning at this point.

  • I still can’t open my mouth very far, and I can’t really tell if it’s improved any. The Google knol on jaw fractures says “[it] will take a lot of effort on the patient’s part to re-obtain facile use of the jaw.”
  • I still can’t really brush the insides or tops of my teeth, but I was surprised that even from the first day, I was able to floss in between most pairs of adjacent teeth. Yesterday, I purchased some CVS brand Dental Flossers, apparently an imitation of a product called Plackers.  These allow me to floss without putting a finger in my mouth, which is helpful. For everyday use, these would seem wasteful, but given the circumstances, I don’t mind using them.
  • I left a message for my oral surgeon on Friday to see if I should be doing something about the discomfort I was experiencing, but I haven’t heard back. It’s generally feeling, better, though. I don’t know if this is actual improvement, or just a reflection of the fact that I didn’t talk much today.
  • The arch bars are held in place by some wires around the teeth, and these move around a bit now that my mouth can move. Not surprisingly, this can be uncomfortable at times.
  • For a while, I thought that eating, and specifically sucking, was creating some discomfort in  my jaw. I realized, though, that it wasn’t the bone but the gums near the wires holding the arch bars in place that hurt. Obviously that way it doesn’t make me worry that my jaw will break again, which is good.
  • I’ve noticed that the right side of my mouth tends to open a little bit further than the left side. I’m not sure if this is something that will go away over time.
  • When I first opened my mouth after the wires were removed, my top and bottom teeth felt sort of soft or mushy against each other. It occurred to me today that it no longer feels this way, but I have no idea when things changed.

Mandible liberation

29 Apr

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to go to a dentist as I was today. As I walked there, I started to feel nervous, though.  What if I were to open my mouth for the first time in three weeks and hear my jaw break again? I tried my best to forget about this thought.

When I got to the oral surgeon’s office, the receptionist recognized me and was ready with a waiver for me to sign for the procedure. I signed the waiver, which warned me about a number of things, many of which should have been irrelevant to this procedure (i.e. dry socket). A woman whom I hadn’t seen in the office before took me back to a room with a dentist’s chair and asked if I had any questions. I asked what my diet should be like with the wire off, and she said I should stick to soft foods, which didn’t surprise me. She had me sit down in the chair and asked if I wanted nitrous oxide. I asked if I needed it, and she said the surgeon would need to numb me for the procedure.

Just then, the surgeon walked in through the door, and said, “No, I don’t. She’s lying.” He explained to her that he was only taking off the wires fastening my jaw shut, and not the “arch bars”, which I gathered were the braces on my upper and lower jaws. He assured me that the procedure would be painless, and he wouldn’t even have to touch my gums. He went on to add, “You know what is going to hurt? When you try to open your mouth.” He explained that this was because I hadn’t used the muscles in my jaws for three weeks, and he compared it to the pain of getting up off the couch after sitting there without moving for three weeks. I didn’t tell him this, but I felt that the analogy was a failure because I had never sat on the couch for that long. He did, at least, tell me that it would get better relatively quickly, and I wouldn’t need to do any jaw exercises.

In any case, he looked into my mouth, and told me he was impressed  by how clean it was. “Hygiene is important,” he said, “It plays a big role in how you feel about yourself.” My self esteem has never been tied to my oral hygiene, but perhaps that’s because I don’t have a degree in dentistry. He then cut off the wires, and told me, “You’re a free man.” I started to get up out of the chair, but then he said, “You can open your mouth,” and I realized what he had meant. So I opened my mouth nice and wide, and somehow it didn’t hurt. Then I opened it a little bit wider and it hurt quite a bit, so I closed it again. I opened my mouth again, this time stopping before I felt any pain, and then slowly closed my mouth again. On the left side, my teeth felt soft against each other, but I hoped that this was just because I was unaccustomed to my top and bottom teeth moving relative to each other.

The oral surgeon explained that my bones will be considered to have healed in three weeks, and for the intervening time, I’ll have rubber bands in my mouth. As for eating, I’m not allowed to chew; the rule is that if I can slurp it, I can eat it. He warned me against Wonderbread (in which I have no interest, even not knowing whether it’s vegan) with peanut butter and jelly because that requires chewing. He listed a number of foods I can eat, including refried beans and rice, pasta, and mashed potatoes. I’m skeptical of his claim that pasta and rice can be eaten without chewing (unless blended), but I should be able to find enough to eat without his suggestions. After three weeks, I’ll be able eat some foods that require chewing, but apples will still be too hard. I’m also free to have my dentist repair my chipped teeth now.

The oral surgeon had his assistant give me toothpaste and a children’s toothbrush and instructed me to brush my teeth and my tongue while he went and did something else. The toothpaste, of course, was the non-vegan Crest, but I used it because I didn’t have my own toothpaste with me. I brushed the outsides of my teeth as I have been doing for the last few weeks, but when it came time to brush my tongue and the insides and tops of my teeth, I realized that I wasn’t able to open my mouth enough for the toothbrush (even being a children’s size) to fit through. I ended up having to settle for cleaning those parts of my mouth by rinsing. I might be a free man, but only in the sense that somebody who gets out of prison and put on house arrest is free. I’m more free than in the immediate past, but I’ve had better.

After I had cleaned my mouth, the surgeon showed me how to hook rubber bands onto the braces, which he explained were to make sure my teeth are “in the right ZIP code.” I can take the rubber bands out, but only when eating or brushing my teeth.

He told me I should come back to check in with him in two weeks. He isn’t planning on doing anything except taking a look at my mouth then, but he said that he’d have to wire it shut again if my teeth were in the wrong place. I was relieved to hear that he’s only had to do that once, but it didn’t occur to me at the time to ask how many patients he’s treated with this kind of injury.

After a quick stop at the front desk to schedule my appointment, I was on my way back to my office.

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