10 years ago today, I broke my jaw

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

As I sit and look out the windows to the light snow that has fallen over the past day, I think about how diametrically different this year’s Valentine’s Day is for me from where I was at this point a decade ago.

In my 26 years of life, I’ve only broken one bone. It was my jaw and it happened on February 14, 2002.

It was broken for an operation I was having.

I had an “open bite.” When I closed my mouth, my top and bottom teeth didn’t touch. It’s complicated to explain, but the surgery was necessary. I had braes but braces weren’t going to fix the problem by themselves. The only option to fix the problem was an Orthognathic Surgery.

Basically the doctors made a cut through my upper gums, sawed my upper jaw off of my skull and realigned my jaw before reattaching it back onto my skull.

Did it work?

Absolutely. I have a bit like an alligator now.

Naturally when my orthodontist first told me that I was going to need this surgery, I had some concerns. My father, whose never been one to sugarcoat things put it bluntly when he said to me, “this will probably be the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to deal with in your entire life.” At the time, it was. Although growing up in a nice suburb of Columbus, as a 16 year old, I had never experienced anything truly difficult.

There was the question of pain. I asked the surgeons in my “pre-op” appointments how much the surgery would hurt. They said that I wouldn’t really feel much pain. “That’s great!” I thought..

“Because the area where we operate will kill most of the nerves in that part of your mouth..” That sounded bad.

I think it’s noteworthy that my sister has always given me a hard time about my jaw surgery. She argues that when I tell people that I’ve had a broken jaw – since it was broken as the result of an operation – that it doesn’t really count.

But trust me. It was broken.

I wasn’t able to eat a normal diet for almost two months.

Granted, since the break was the result of an operation, it healed more quickly than if it had been fractured in a moe traumatic fashion, but it still counts. Surgically broken is still broken.

Was my jaw wired shut? Not exactly. It’s not like they took some World War I era, tetanus infested, steel grade wire to “wire my jaw shut.” At the time, I already had braces and they just banded my braces together.

For people who have had braces, it is not uncommon to need to put elastic bands on the brackets of the braces to help straightening one’s teeth. Those aren’t the types of bands I’m talking about. My teeth were banded together all the way around.

They were bound so tightly that I couldn’t talk or eat. Worst of all, I couldn’t brush my teeth for the first few days. They gave me this heavy duty mouthwash to use, but it’s really hard to gargle mouth wash when you can’t move your teeth!

I certainly don’t want to overstate the operation. I have friends and family members who have had to deal with cancer and other chronic health conditions. Obviously a broken jaw doesn’t compete with those types of health issues. Nevertheless, it still wasn’t fun to deal with!