As many of you know, I’ve had a few jaw surgeries over the past year and a half. Several of you have asked what was wrong with my jaw to begin with, why my face has changed so much and why I’ve had to undergo so many surgeries. So, buckle up- here we go!
At age 9, I was told that my teeth were straight enough that if I didn’t want to have braces, I didn’t need to. However, my dentist told both my mom and I that I might potentially benefit from braces; not to straighten my teeth necessarily, but to adjust my jaw as I was showing minor symptoms of TMJ. Like most people, I have despised the dentist my entire life, and I begged my mom not to take my to the orthodontist.
Adding an orthodontist bill to my parents’ monthly budget wasn’t quite in the cards at that point of their lives, so they didn’t force me to go.
Over the years, I started grinding my teeth in my sleep. I saw a TMJ specialist when I was in college who made me a dental orthotic to wear during the night to help stop my teeth grinding. Unfortunately, it lasted for about a week; I ended up grinding so badly that I bit right through the night guard and awoke in the middle of the night to a mouth full of broken acrylic.
Shortly after, I moved to San Diego and started a business, got married, and became pregnant. I put the entire “my jaw is really fucked up” on the back burner.
Not long after little Barb Marley was born, I started experiencing really bad TMJ-like symptoms. I had chronic migraines, my shoulders, neck and back were always sore, my teeth hurt like hell at all times, and I was in and out of the dentist ALL the time.
After a few years of this, and astronomical dental bills, I hit a point where I knew I had to take take a different route. My Care Credit was maxed out, and we were shoveling out cash to the dentist left and right. We couldn’t afford to keep up with this dental nightmare.
One evening, I was eating a jelly bean and I bit down and completely severed one of my back molars from the gum. Meaning, the root of the tooth was still intact, however, the entire top piece of the tooth had come off. I went to the dentist immediately, as it hurt like hell, and she said that I needed to see a neuromuscular dentist. She explained that I’d ground all the dentin off my back molars, and my jaw was literally collapsing. Without fixing my jaw, anything I did to fix teeth would be pointless, seeing I’d likely just grind it all off in my sleep, anyway. There was no bandaid solution to this. I needed to fix the jaw first, and only then would these instances stop happening.
I met with a total of three neuromuscular dentists/surgeons whose quotes ranged from $35K to $67K, and finally settled on one in Orange County. He was trained extensively in this area and came with the highest recommendations. Our family had to bend over backwards to make this work, and thankfully with the help of my amazing in-laws, we were able to make it happen.
Upon my first visit, the neuromuscular dentist made it exceptionally clear that this was going to be a long haul. He explained that he literally needed to heighten my bite by multiple millimeters, and this wasn’t something that could be done overnight. Furthermore, he went into great detail about the importance of maintaining my teeth- I was totally not an everyday flosser :-/
My first surgery was in August of 2014. It was an eight hour surgery where they shaved down every single tooth on the top of my mouth, and I was fitted with temps on the top, and a huge acrylic orthotic on the bottom. I talked as if I had one of those mouth pieces that professional wrestlers wear during all conversations. Naturally, Barb thought it was hilarious. With time, my bite slowly started to heighten and align.
My second surgery was in February 2015, and they did the same thing to the bottom teeth as they had done to the top (shaved down every single tooth, and placed temps on the bottom teeth with the new desired height). During this visit, he also removed all my top temporary teeth, and replaced them with my new permanent teeth that he had hand crafted himself. Each tooth had its own special dimensions to align to my new bite. Because they had replaced my back molars, and heightened them, I had to have all my front teeth replaced. Had he not done this, if I’d have smiled/bit down, my back molars would have been taller than the rest of my teeth, therefore, that would have hindered my jaw from closing all the way- and I’d be a human fly trap.
Barb witnessed most of this and became fascinated with the entire experience.
“I LIKE YOUR NEW TEETH!” she’d say every.single.day.
I explained to her that had I taken proper measures ahead of time, I wouldn’t be in the situation. I used this experience, seeing there was no way of me hiding it from her, to help her understand how important oral health was. Honest to God, I would never, ever, in a million years wish what I have gone through on any one human being, especially my child.
I didn’t want to scare Barb, but I wanted her to know that half-assing when brushing and flossing her teeth could potentially lead to cavities. Barb may or may not believe that I just had A LOT of cavities- which, I could really care less how she interpreted this entire ordeal- as long as she took away the importance of caring for her teeth.
During one of my first meetings with my neuromuscular dentist/surgeon, he recommended a Sonicare toothbrush and a flossing device like a water pic. I purchased both, and Barb was ALL over it.
However, a water pic ended up not being the greatest thing for, at the time, a 6 year old. I bought Barb all types of flossing devices, but each one failed. Barb loved the Sonicare, but hated the flossing part.
After searching high and low, I was introduced to a company called GumChucks. The item sounded like it was more so geared towards kids, but I tried it out for myself first. I used to be just a box-floss type of girl, but after trying these suckers- I’ll never go back. They are easy to use, they don’t require any type of crazy hand aerobatics to get the flossing device into your mouth, and the device literally slides against all sides of your teeth as you use it.
When you are through flossing your teeth, you literally press/squeeze the bottom handles of the GumChucks, and the flossing component catapults right off. Naturally, seeing Barb and I share a bathroom, it wasn’t long before Barb was interested in the GumChucks, too.
It took her a little getting used to, but now she loves it. I have to remind her that we don’t need to catapult the GumChucks around the house, nor after EVERY SINGLE TOOTH we floss, and that it is completely normal to floss our entire mouth with ONE flossing tip.
These things are awesome, guys. They are easy to use, easy to replace- and SO much better than regular dental floss. You can purchase them on there website with this link HERE and get an immediate 15% off.
Now, I’m not quite out of the woods just yet with my surgeries. I had my most recent surgery on December 12th where they replaced my bottom temporaries to a new height to see if they could pull my jaw down just a bit more, and then once my dentist is happy, we will place my new permanent teeth- however, I will wear an orthotic for the rest of my life when I sleep.
This dental situation did not just affect my teeth. It affected my finances, what I could eat, and my life. I cannot stress the importance of oral health. The dentist ranks as one of the biggest fear by most American’s- but I promise you, taking the proper measures to look after your teeth is SO worth it. In the end, you’re going to have to do it anyways- no matter how long you wait.
I’ve heard MULTIPLE dentists say that if they had to recommend their patients do ONE THING- it would be FLOSS THEIR TEETH. So- FLOSS FLOSS FLOSS, GUYS!!!!
The Sonicare toothbrush I purchased at Costco, which I recommend buying there because they have pretty competitive pricing compared to other spots- they often have this toothbrush on sale, too.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about my neuromuscular surgeon. He has an office both in Las Vegas, and in Orange County. If you would like his contact information, please let me know and I’d be more than happy to pass it along.
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