My Double Jaw Surgery Experience

I always had this awkward smile. I had excessive gums and my lower jaw was too far back. While I never felt as though anyone treated me differently, it was something I was always very conscious of. My face just didn’t seem to fit together the way it should, and when things are out of alignment there can be potential future health implications.

It was something I spent hours googling, and often compared myself to others. I thought it was just me and something I had to live with. And, I would have lived with it because I was too scared to think about the process of having it fixed and how much it would cost.

When I was with the father of my children, I never felt as though I could do anything for myself or that I deserved anything more. You can easily get caught up in a life of catering to someone else’s needs while ignoring your own. When we split I felt this insane amount of strength and empowerment. The freedom to make my own choices and find my own path. Once I had overcome the shock of the split and settled my children into a new home and life, I decided it was time to do a little research and see if fixing my smile would be achievable.

The first point of call was the local dentist. I was nervous as I had never really verbalised my issues with my smile until then. I felt as though if I didn’t say anything, no one would notice. Luckily, I found a a lovely and understanding dentist. She handed me a card for an orthodontist called Dr Salmon and told me to make an appointment just to have a chat. Well, what can I say. This man is a superstar and definitely not the only superstar I met on this massive journey. He told me he could fix my teeth with braces but what I really needed was double jaw surgery. What? Yes. Break both my jaws and put them where they are supposed to be. Ok. Breathe.

I trusted him instantly and I was then referred to the second superstar in my story, Dr Benjamin Grave, an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. Yes, Dr Salmon was right, my jaws needed to be broken and repositioned. But, how much would this cost? I was a single mum. Fortunately in South Australia we have an amazing teaching hospital and the Craniofacial Unit cover these types of surgeries through Medicare. There is a year waiting list but you need to wear braces prior so you would have to wait anyway.

To begin the process I had to go back to the original dentist and have 3 back teeth removed to make more room in my mouth. This was not fun. This is the point where there was no going back. I sat in the chair, shaking as I was told there would be a bit of rocking and pulling on my teeth. Can I keep them? Yes. I’m weird like that, I like my mementos.

Braces are not cheap. However, I was able to pay them off over the course of 3 years and private health cover (and my mum) helped lessen the financial burden. I went for clear on the top and full metal jacket on the bottom.

During the period of braces I had a series of planning meetings at the Women’s and Children’s hospital and Royal Adelaide Hospital with Dr Grave, the famous Dr David David and various medical students. Sitting in a room with dozens of eyes staring at your mouth is quite a surreal experience. There were multiple XRays, moulds, visits with an ENT, Speech Therapist and even a social worker. Everyone was on the same page and worked as part of a team. I have never seen anything as professional and well organised as the Craniofacial Unit.

Somewhere along the journey I met the man I will be spending the rest of my life with. He fell in love with me with braces and my old face and was my rock during the final stages of the process.

As the operation got closer, I started asking more questions. I found out my bottom jaw would be moved forward and my top jaw would be moved upwards. They would literally cut my jaws and put them somewhere else. These would be held together with surgical plates. Once again I googled photos for before and after and became fascinated (obsessed) by the process.

Being a public patient is never straightforward. The first day my surgery was booked I arrived at hospital early, on my own as my partner and mum had to juggle my children. On an empty stomach and feeling rather hangry, I was gowned up and sat waiting. I spoke to the anaesthetic who declared it was a big surgery. For him to say that made me suddenly realise this was a massive leap. The first night I would need to stay in the intensive care unit and be regularly monitored, after all they were rearranging my face. After waiting for hours, I was told there was no bed for me and I would have to reschedule. All those nerves and working myself up and I was sent home. Someone needed the bed more than I did and that was OK. This wasn’t an emergency. I drank a bottle of wine.

Then I waited. The second operation was scheduled and when I arrived at the hospital I was told “someone should have cancelled this, we have no beds”. I was shaking. I went home. OK. Another bottle of wine.

The third time was very last minute, there was a cancellation and they called me in. This time I was casual. I was prepared to go home and I had wine in the fridge. Not this time. This time I went under and I woke up vomiting blood. This is what I was most scared of but it didn’t hurt and wasn’t the worst part. I wasn’t sure whether my mouth would be wired shut but it was held together by a few rubber bands on my braces. They handed me a suction and sucking the blood out of my mouth was the only thing I had control over.

After hours I was wheeled down to the intensive care unit. Another superhero entered the room in the shape of a nurse. I wish I could remember her name but I was doped up on pain killers. She cleaned my face and calmed me down. My partner came into the room with a look on his face and told me I was still beautiful. It makes me tear up when I remember this. I think he was just happy to see I had made it to the other side. I had a button attached to the vein in my hand which I could press whenever I needed Fentanyl. This meant I wasn’t in any pain at all and most of the nerves on my face were numb. My mouth was full of blood and I couldn’t swallow. How was I going to get through this? What had I done?

The anaesthetist came in to see how I was doing. He apologised for the massive bruise on my head. I could hardly open my mouth to speak but I joked for him to look at my face, does a bruise make any difference to me right now?

I couldn’t stand up by myself but there was a time where I was busting for the toilet. More busting than I’ve ever been in my life. On went the hospital sticky socks and a chair with toilet bowl was placed in my room. I sat there frozen for 20 minutes because I didn’t want anyone to hear me. My body wouldn’t work. It was a funny moment in a painful situation.

(This is my final XRay and shows all of the metal in my mouth)

Once I was able to stay in the normal ward I hooked up my Foxtel and was able to waddle around and take myself to the toilet. I couldn’t eat, in fact I lost 10 kilos in a week (unfortunately I have put it all, and more, back on now). I can never eat jelly ever again for the rest of my life. Jelly, broth and cordial was about all there was for me. They gave me doses of oxycodone but it had to be liquid, and it burned my throat on the way down. The nurses were all to be admired. They do not get the credit they deserve. After a couple of days my face swelled up like a watermelon. If you think having your wisdom teeth removed is bad, this is something else entirely.

When I finally got to go home it was a relief even though I had to sleep in an awkward position. I didn’t have many painkillers except for Panadeine 7 as my face was still numb. I was lucky to have support from my mum and my partner, and when I could finally eat a pureed burger patty it was the best meal I ever had. The Auto IQ Ninja was a lifesaver! I ninja-ed anything and everything.

Somehow I was proposed to during this period. That is true love right!? My face eventually healed but there was one problem. Since my bottom jaw was brought forward my chin was too far back. This would require an additional surgery, not as bad but still a surgery. The muscles in my jaws were still spasming and I was starting to feel pain.

Back I went. This time I felt as though it was harder. I had used all my strength for the previous surgery and I was scared to go back. The student anaesthetist couldn’t find my vein and I was crying on the operating table as I felt like a pin cushion. It was cold. I remember not wanting to wake up and felt as though I was fighting it, I didn’t want to go through the healing process again. I saw my children and my partner in my mind and suddenly I was awake, talking jibberish to the nurse asking if I was dead. I said I couldn’t breathe. I was having a panic attack. I wasn’t spewing this time and was given some kind of anti-psychotic. Calm. Breathe.

This surgery was noticeable straight away. My family saw me and were amazed that I had a chin. I went straight to the ward and came home after one night. I was swollen but not as bad as the first time around. I gave myself time to heal and besides a bit of numbess in my chin and my jaw feeling stiff sometimes, there haven’t been too many long term side effects. The braces came off and I was given a permanent wire behind my teeth to keep them in place. Plus, I got married earlier this year!

Recently I had my final visit with Dr Grave and he said to me that so many things could have gone wrong, but none of them did. He is one talented human being and should be proud of his work.ย This is when I realised what a huge thing I had done and how strong I was to get through it.

Thank you to everyone who was part of this process with me, it changed my life for the better. If you are considering having double jaw surgery and have any questions just let me know x

26 thoughts on “My Double Jaw Surgery Experience

  1. Oh wow…..a very long arduous journey to go on but what a wonderful time through it all by meeting that perfect man. I think my sister has problems with her jaw but nothing to what you had wrong.

    You have gone through so much pain but have come out happy at the end and that’s what is so great reading what you have had done.

    Here’s to many years of smiling and contentment for you now. xx

    1. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ I think we are lucky in Australia to have the health care system that we do xx

  2. It takes a spell in hospital to really appreciate the talents and the caring nature of all medical people, especially the nursing staff. They do a wonderful job with long hours and very little appreciation.
    You were brave to undergo such extensive changes, and it seems you are delighted with the result, so that is the main thing.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Definitely! And there are always those patients that treat them poorly. I don’t know how the hospital staff do it, they are amazing.

  3. Yep, it’s a huge operation! I was interested to see what differences there would be in this surgery compared to my double jaw surgery that I had in 1984. I was 15 years old and I remember it very well, especially the recovery with my teeth wired together for 2 months. Not sure if you had this as well or if technology has advanced since then but I had to have my food extremely liquified to fit through all of the wiring. 170cm tall and just 46kg at the end of this!

    All in all I had 9 years of orthodontic treatment and the the maxilla facial surgery. My parents did this for me and they were so worried about the decision but what I gained from this was not just straight teeth and an aligned jaw – it was confidence. It helped shape the person I am today and for that I’m so grateful.

    Thanks for sharing your story. If you ever have to have an MRI, remember to tell them about your internal wiring ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I wasn’t wired together except with a few rubber bands connecting my braces. I had to puree everything for a few weeks after I got home (mashed potato type consistency) and it was quite a few months before I ate a steak! I would say it was a 3 year process for me. I never thought about the MRI thing! How do you go at the airport? Does it beep at all?

      Anna xx

      1. Hi, okay so they have refined the surgery then (glad you were spared the wiring). When I got my wiring removed (which was internally wrapped around my chin and cheek bones) they pulled them until they snapped off (yep. nice!) After that, I couldn’t open my mouth because my jaw had lost muscle tone. Such a weird experience.

        The airport is no problem at all. I guess it depends what your wiring is made of. An MRI may not be a problem for you – maybe ask your surgeon?

        Have you ever thought about how they actually break your jaw in surgery?!!!

        Mich ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. Hi Mich,

          I don’t want to think too much about how they actually broke it! They did tell me there was a possibility of the actual jaw losing bloodflow when did it. Eek!

          So, in my head I imagined them taking the whole thing of my mouth, placing it on the table and hacking at it and then it not being able to reconnect! But, thankfully it’s all done on the inside of the mouth haha.

          My jaw does still get quite stiff but I’m getting there. I am so very glad I didn’t have to have the wiring and what you went through! Ouch!

          Anna xx

          1. Funny what you imagine. I imagined a sledgehammer and judging by the bruising afterwards, I’m not sure I was wrong! Lol.

  4. What an ordeal you have been through I could feel the pain. I’m so pleased that everything went so well and you now have a perfect smile. How wonderful to have the support of your partner and of course your parents. Thankyou for sharing.

    1. Thank you Gilli, it was definitely worth it but I am glad it is over ๐Ÿ™‚ A good support system is everything xx

  5. I haven’t been through this (nor am I likely to), but have spent time in hospital due to a “just bad luck” stroke shortly after my youngest was born. The medical staff – doctors and nurses – were horrendous. Totally uninterested in even basic patient care. The same hospital has staff in intensive care, paediatrics, emergency, gastro-intestinal wards, all of whom have been equally horrendous to me or others known to me.

    You were very lucky, but not all hospitals in Australia offer the same level of care.

    1. Oh no Lorraine, that sounds like an awful experience! It sounds like there needs to be a few changes where you are xxx

  6. It is amazing the strength you find to go through something like that. Well done to you xxx

  7. 2 very brave Michelle’s from the sounds of it, so much braver than me.
    It is amazing how much strength we really can muster when we have to, I haven’t been through an ordeal like that but it sounds like a long process of healing.
    Am so happy for you both being happy with the end results and lucky to have such fantastic support which obviously love and care for you both very much.
    We can never tell what people go through by looking at them.
    My 17 year old boy only had 4 teeth taken out (2 at a time) and I was worried lol! So I could understand the worry mich’s parents faced.
    Thanks for sharing
    One day we may be (hope to be hint, hint) reviewing Michelle’s biography, it’s great to hear real life stories, makes us feel normal. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I know this is such an old blog but I’ve just found it on my searches to try and ease my mind! I’m having double jaw surgery in 5 days, was meant to be at the new RAH but is now at a private hospital after so many cancelled appointments and cancellations of my surgery. Feels like it’s just never going to happen and I’ll only believe it when its over!
    I’ve got a different surgeon but reading your blog has made me feel more at ease with the whole situation. I’m so nervous about the anaesthetic and recovery period, eating blended foods will be one of the hardest things for me. How did you cope with it all? And how long were you on a liquid diet for?

    1. I had the cancelled appointments too, that was the worst part! Have you got a Nutra Ninja? That was a lifesaver for me. In hospital the diet was very liquid, and taking the drugs in liquid form was not fun. But they look after you well. When I got home everything was pureed in the Ninja as my jaws weren’t completely wired shut, that lasted a few weeks I think. You do get creative with your meals, although I will never eat jelly again for the rest of my life. My partner did a few KFC potato and gravy trips for me. Honestly though, it has been a few years now and I have no regrets. I have so much more confidence and as stressful and hard as it was, as time goes past I hardly ever even think about it. The recovery goes quickly, and once the swelling starts to go down you will feel more normal again. Good luck, and I hope it all goes well as I am sure it will. I hope you check in again as I would love to know how you go!

      1. Those cancelled appointments honestly almost had me switch surgeons, but here I am, 3 days out! I dont but i have the Nutra Ninja, but I’ve got a blender and a Nutri Bullet so hopefully I can survive with those! I’ll definitely check in post op! Just want it done now!

        1. 3 days post-op check in! they didn’t wire my jaws shut! I’m on a liquid diet for 4-5 weeks depending on my jaw recovery and today I’ve started taking tablet painkillers as oppose to syringing myself pain relief! I can now slowly eat with a spoon but I’m not really that hungry..
          I only spent 1 night in hospital and my surgeon was really happy with my recovery, sending me home the next day from ICU!
          So far so good, I’m in pain and the swelling is crazy but thats expected, I just have to keep telling myself its all onwards and upwards from here!

          1. I’m so sorry I didn’t see this before! I am so glad it went well, how are you feeling now? 1 night in hospital is amazing! Are you happy with the results?

          2. The results are amazing! Never been happier with my smile and my orthodontist is over the moon too! Go back to my surgeon for my 6 month review in 3 weeks!

  9. We are just starting this journey for my 17yr old daughter also with Dr Grave and Dr Salmon, her braces actually go on next week.

      1. Update as promised, a bit late but here we go

        Well what an eventful 13.5 months

        Braces went on 31/10/19 as planned and we cruised along with trips to Adelaide each 8-10 weeks for adjustments (and the odd bracket replacement) until the country came to a standstill in March.
        Skip ahead to 23/4/20 and somehow she managed to break the elastic chain pulling her teeth in to position (Orthodontist closed and end of May appt technically cancelled) all we could do was cross fingers and hope they were able to reopen before next appt.

        At her May adjustment Dr Salmon informed her that there was no way her teeth would be ready for surgery at the start of Nov as planned, this was a major disappointment and hit her hard. Serious consideration was given to not worrying about it but after a quick email to Dr Grave’s rooms and a ph consult with him we refocused.
        I’m fairly sure when Dr Grave said to her “you have my mobile no, just text if any questions” that it wouldn’t end up being an entire document with around 70 questions. He proceeded to answer every question when we saw him 27/8/20.

        That brings us to now, well we are off to Adelaide in the morning to do the surgery paperwork with Dr Grave on Monday and for surgical hooks to be attached by Dr Salmon on Tuesday. Then we begin the countdown to Jan 15th 2021 for surgery, at this stage she only needs her lower jaw moved (1cm).

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