October was splendiferous. I wanted it to be so, and I made it so with a little bit of strategic scheduling: I put off my oral surgery just a little bit longer. After postponing it for more than two years, how could another month matter much?
I had the surgery this morning, and because I’m immeasurably blessed, I spent the rest of the day and evening convalescing at the home of angels. They do not wish to be named, but “angels” will do. They picked me up early this morning to take me in, came to collect me afterward, and brought me home to their house. It was a two-hour surgery, and I was wiped out! I have no memory of my follow-up appointment being made, or of being taken to the car in a wheelchair. One minute I was getting an I.V. inserted, and the next minute I was in the car with an ice-pack.
Standard post-op pain notwithstanding, it feels so good to have had this done. Surgery wasn’t possible while I was taking certain meds, so I finally decided to stop taking them just long enough to do it and recover from it. Today was Surgery, Part 1. Part 2 will take place in the spring, and I’ll be sure to clear the temporary med-cessation aspect with my rheumatologist. I’m feeling properly contrite about having gone off my meds without consulting her first.
About the surgery, though!
I’d had no idea that such a thing existed as gum recession caused by extensive childhood orthodontia. My surgeon described the phenomenon with technical language and a diagram drawn and demonstrated in the air. Two years later, I don’t remember the details of the explanation – I just remember the words “flaring out” – but the nurse who fits me for my retainers summarized it simply as there was so much orthodontic movement happening in my bones when I was young and still growing that now, decades later, my gums have pulled back from my teeth.
I found basically nothing about this when I went to research it online, save for two studies that largely dispute the connection… not that we believe the internet to be a 100% reliable source of medical education.
In any case, my orthodontia was the orthodontia of the 70’s and 80’s; no doubt the technology’s evolved since then. I was an O.G. metal-mouth, the first one in my class. My nine-year orthodontic adventure started in 1976, when I was seven, and it unfolded in two phases between which I had two full sets of braces (first metal bands, then metal brackets), tooth extractions, both a neckgear and a headgear, “separators,” a “positioner,” rubber bands, and retainers. It was a lot. At one point during Phase 2, I had a full set of metal brackets, a full head-gear, and four rubber bands crisscrossing in my mouth from front to back all at once!
All of this was to correct an overbite and crooked teeth, and I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful and glad that it was even a possibility for me. I’m also glad that orthodontia looks different enough now that maybe children today won’t grow up to develop gums receding from teeth that had “flared out,” or whatever it was that supposedly happened as an orthodontic aftereffect.
In this morning’s surgery, the doctor fixed my upper gums by grafting cadaver tissue over them. (He’ll do the lower ones in the spring.) He’s going to remove my stitches in two weeks. I can’t work out at all for at least a week, he said, and it’ll be a month before I can go back to eating the way I normally do.
Right now, of course, the pain is super real. I feel like I’ve been K.O’d, and I can barely open my mouth. This will happen when your jaws are pried open and held open for two hours! I can’t smile or really move my face at all, I’m drinking water and liquid food through my teeth, and I’m wondering how I’m going to get through the month without losing weight.
But again, I have no complaints. I’m truly so fortunate that I’m able to have these surgeries. Life is good.