My name is Maddie and I am a first year fourth grade teacher in the pre operative stage of double jaw surgery. I decided to start a blog because I have been a dedicated blog reader over the past several months and it has been very helpful to see other people who have gone through the same situation. I don’t know anyone who has experienced my same situation so it helped to reassure me I wasn’t alone out there:) The whole process can be so overwhelming at times so I thought it could be helpful to try and express thoughts or feelings through writing. Maybe my posts will even help someone else getting ready to start this journey! I am not quite sure how this works though, so I will start by explaining how I got to where I am today with my jaw… When I was in high school I began having some pain and locking in my jaw. Doctors didn’t think much of it. My freshman year of college at my routine dental visit he noticed I was developing an open bite (top and bottom teeth do not touch). After seeing many doctors, it was finally diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis. I began seeing a rheumatologist who, among other things, gave me steroid shots in my jaw to reduce the inflammation. We later found out that steroids also destroy the bone.
Thankfully, I have the most loving and dedicated mother. She did quite a bit of research and found that there is another disease called idiopathic condylar resorption (ICR) that has similar symptoms. Basically, the condyle bones in the jaw joint are resorbed by the body. The cause isn’t clear, but is suspected to be many things that I have had – birth control pills, trauma to the jaw during athletics, orthodontic work. We currently aren’t sure if I have rheumatoid arthritis or ICR but the treatment plan is the same regardless.
While researching we found a clinic in Santa Barbara California called the Center for Corrective Jaw Surgery. The two doctors have done considerable research on ICR and one of their papers described my condition almost to a “T”. We contacted them and went for a consult in March, 2012. They came up with a treatment plan of supplements, medication, braces, and surgery that will put my bite back together and support my jaw joint so that it stays stable.
At this time my condyles are severely smaller than they should be. That bone will never grow back, but stabilizing the joint should keep it from getting worse. We are working to keep the inflammation down through medication and are supporting the bone health through supplements. The surgery will give me a correct bite and that should support the jaw joint so that the inflammation will not return.
I decided to wait to have braces put on until after I graduated and found a job, so I put the treatment plan on hold for a year. Last July I had braces put on (for the third time) to move my teeth into the position needed for surgery. Next June I will have both upper and lower jaw surgery in Santa Barbara. Recuperation time is long, but have planned it to allow maximum time for me to get stronger before i need to be back in the classroom in August. I will be on a clear liquid diet for two weeks, then pureed liquids. I cannot begin a soft chew diet until 8-10 weeks after surgery. Finally, I will get to have my braces removed 6-12 months after surgery.
For several years now my back molars have been the only teeth that touch, so it is difficult for me to chew food. Biting something is not possible. If it is soft, I can use my tongue and front teeth to “tear” the food, otherwise I must cut it into bite sized pieces. The bone loss has caused, over time, my lower jaw and therefore my chin, to move back. That is the best summary I can do of where I am today:) the whole process is something I have struggled a lot with. Most days are good but I still have times when I am filled with stress and fear. It is no fun being a 22 year old with braces but I just have to remind myself it will all pay off in the long run! I will be thankful when this is all over and can finally chew normally again! That is why I decided to name my blog what it is…I am learning to embrace my smile (even with braces 🙂 ) and be thankful I have such supportive family, friends, and doctors to help me through this. ~Maddie~
me and my boyfriend enjoying ourselves last summer during a trip to Santa Barbara to see Dr Gunson!
Can’t thank this woman enough for all the research, support, and love she has given me through this situation.