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My experience of TMJ and jaw surgery at Shaping Faces
A patient's own account of various aspects of her surgery; the good and the bad including before and after photos.
Surgeon: Mr Manolis Heliotis
Orthodontist: Mr Victor Crow
Hospital: Trust Plus Northwick Park Hospital
With grateful thanks to Jessica for sharing her story
Why did you need orthognathic surgery?
Initially it was in my regular dentist appointments where we picked up there might be a problem. I think I was about 7 at the time and just slowly my bite started to move out of alignment. Then over the years it got worse to the point where I was getting aching in the jaw joints and occasionally my jaw would lock when I was cold or exercising - and also my bite was getting worse and worse so whilst I still had minimal contact on my molars, over time I had no contact at the front - I wasn't able to actually chop food. So, over time it became more and more apparent that I needed to do something about it.
Unusual to your case you also had temporomandibular joint surgery. Can you tell us why that is?
What was causing my jaw to be off to one side and also forward was a particular area of bone which had continued to grow, so I had the initial TMJ surgery, first of all to shift the jaw slightly back into alignment and also to remove that area of bone that had continued to grow abnormally.
Where they any scars from the operation?
There is a really, really tiny scar literally along the line of my ear, but you would never notice it unless you were particularly looking for it.
Were you happy with the operation?
Absolutely thrilled. The initial surgery I was told was just to remove part of the bone and I was absolutely shocked at the impact that it had, just that little bit of movement bringing my jaw back into line gave me a lot more contact and then, obviously, the second surgery was phenomenal. For me, more than kind of the aesthetic side, the value in being able to eat without having to think about it and having the use of all of my mouth - being able to smile without being conscious, being able to eat whatever I like without having to worry about will I be able to bite it or won't I - and just generally feeling more confident.
How long did it take for the numbness to go away?
Initially I was numb pretty much from the nose down, but at that stage after the surgery that's probably not a bad thing, it meant that I wasn't particularly uncomfortable and then over time slowly, I guess within the first 2 - 4 weeks the majority of the feeling had come back. I still experience very mild numbness in one section of my lip, but nothing that affects me in any way.
What was the worst thing about the operation?
Surprisingly the most difficult thing for me was that the pain killers which I took after the operation made me feel really nauseous, so I kind of refused to take them and the worst thing, and possibly the best thing, was even without the pain killers the actual surgery itself didn't cause that much discomfort. Within the first two days I was comfortable enough to start eating soft foods.
Was it painful?
No, I wouldn't say so. I would say that it's perfectly manageable, the pain. It's more adjusting to your jaw being in a completely different position because the way you speak, the way you eat is something that you've learned over, you know, decades and to suddenly having a completely different jaw position it takes a while to adjust, but in terms of pain from personal experience that's not something I can say was an issue for me.
Has anybody noticed a difference in you since you've had the operation?
My close family, people that saw me throughout the process, didn't necessarily notice a drastic change, but what I did notice is people who I hadn't seen for a while who saw me right at the beginning and afterwards, just first of all not having the braces and the preparatory orthodontic treatment and then also just that I'm much more comfortable smiling and that I'm generally just kind of happier.
Someone in a similar position to you thinking about having an operation or surgery for something similar. Would you recommend it to them?
Absolutely. Absolutely. If at any stage of the process I could go back and change anything I wouldn't. I was made to feel incredibly comfortable. I was looked after really well and I feel fantastic afterwards. It's made me happier and more confident and I would highly recommend having it done.