It has now been just over five weeks since I had my jaw wired as a result of my bicycle accident in April, resulting in three jaw fractures. Although it seemed like forever when I was going through the process, looking back now, the time actually went fairly fast.
I was wired for only two weeks. Many jaw fracture patients are wired for up to six weeks, but from my reading (and in the opinion of my oral surgeon), that long a period can cause real issues in regaining the ability to open one's mouth wide, especially in folks over the age of 30 -- and I'm well past that! So, my surgeon cut the wires after only two weeks and put me on heavy-duty elastic bands that hooked to the arch bars screwed into my upper and lower jaws inside my mouth. These elastics helped hold my mandible (lower jaw) in the appropriate position but did not prevent movement and made talking much easier. I could also remove them three times a day to eat and to exercise my jaw by opening my mouth as far as I could and stretching the opening with my fingers. Very soon I found that I could open my jaw far enough to put three fingers in (stacked vertically), which is pretty much the gold standard for jaw opening. I'm sure I could open farther prior to my accident, but I was relieved to manage this much opening so soon after surgery. My jaw felt stiff, and it is tiring to open that far, but there has been no real pain since the first week after being wired. Whew!
I wore the elastics religiously for three weeks, changing them out after each meal. Although they were an improvement on wires, I felt more nervous during this time, afraid that my jaw would move out of place, but that fear was unfounded as my malocclusion actually improved from the first to third weeks of elastics, much to my surprise. It's not perfect as my teeth still touch first on the left, but at least I can bring the right side of my teeth together now; something I couldn't do before surgery.
Earlier this week, I returned to the oral surgeon to have the arch bars removed. This involved IV sedation (thank goodness!) and a few stitches inside my mouth. My mouth still feels strange as I can feel where the hardware was, and I am a bit swollen in the lower face, but this should improve every day as my gums heal. The bars caused some gum recession above one of my front teeth, and I may need a small gum graft in the future, but my surgeon advised me not to do anything about my gums until orthodontia is complete, as braces cause gum movement and changes as well.
My diet since getting the wires cut has been one of soft foods such as oatmeal with bananas cut into small pieces, well-cooked and finally chopped vegetables, mashed potatoes, yogurt, ice cream, fish cut into small bites, rice, and applesauce.. I am still on this soft diet but my surgeon told me I could gradually start eating more normally over time. It will likely be months before I can eat anything very hard or very chewy, but that is okay with me. I am patient as I don't want to do anything to mess my jaw up after all I've been through.
I go back to the surgeon in five and a half weeks for a final (I hope) 3D x-ray and check-up, I am not thrilled with having to have so many x-rays, especially in my head area, but these will be helpful when I go to an orthodontist. My surgeon said that I had to wait until he releases me for that, and I'm not complaining. My bite isn't perfect now but is much improved, and my teeth appear to me to be a little more crooked than before the accident, so orthodontia is definitely in my future. I'm not looking forward to that, but I think the results will be worth it. Unfortunately, having to be present for so many appointments while I wear braces will severely limit our ability to travel for quite awhile.
My experience certainly shows that no matter what plans you make, one unexpected event can change everything. I hope we can eventually get back to having more fun and adventures, but for now my health is job one!.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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