Thursday, August 29, 2013

Introduction

For many, many years I have struggled with a crooked mouth. Not just crooked teeth, but an entire mouthful of teeth and jaw bones that didn't line up properly as I grew into adulthood. I never had braces as a young person because my parents didn't have all that much money, we had a large family and my father said he loved my smile just the way it was. I believed him for many years.

But then the pain started. At about 24 years of age, the joints of my mandibular began to pop, grind, ache and clinch. I went through all kinds of X rays and tests, coming up with a diagnosis of TMJ syndrome. A very common ailment to most people nowadays, but at the time, I had never heard of it. My dentist recommended I see a MaxioFacial surgeon to consider surgery. This was in the vicinity of  1984.
After many consultations with the surgeon, I decided to pursue it. He wanted to do an upper maxillary reduction and an mandibular extension. Basically, I needed my lower jaw aligned because one side was longer than the other and it was recessed back too far to fit nicely into my very narrow upper jaw.   My upper jaw needed to have bone mass removed to reduce a  gummy smile while the upper palate needed expansion inside, as I said before, it was very narrow. Wow. Ouch. That sounded a bit barbaric. Really? So, after much prayer and consulting with family and friends, I decided to do it. I applied for the surgery through my insurance company, but they denied my claim, stating that this was a 'cosmetic' surgery. The cost of surgery was approximately $30,000 so if insurance wouldn't pay for it, it wasn't an option for me.


 So now what? I prayed. I prayed that the pain would subside. I prayed that I could find alternatives to surgery. I prayed that it would all just go away. But it didn't.
I began physical therapy for TMJ as a step towards relief. Treatments felt good, but didn't provide me with the long term results I was wanting. At this point, I wasn't concerned with how my teeth and mouth looked, I just wanted pain relief. One day, my PT guy was using some kind of TENS unit sort of thing on my face (basically it sends little vibrations into your muscles).  When he reached over the back side of the unit to turn it off, instead of turning  it down, he turned it all the way up! My face did a massive jolt as he scrambled around the front side of the machine to turn down the power. Needless to say, he was very apologetic as I bolted upright with my face feeling like it had just been electrocuted! My face quivered for a few days, but then I noticed that the pain had diminished quite a bit. Could this be an answer to prayer? Being a new Christian, I was certain that God had heard my cry for help by sending healing in a very unique way.
For the next 25 years I just went along with life, raising babies into adults, tending our family farm, and supporting my husband along his career path. I dealt with the misalignment of my jaw by adjusting and adapting to "it is what it is" kind of attitude. I ate certain foods rather funny while staying away from other foods all together. I avoided most meats because it was just too dense to spend that much time chewing with out discomfort.

Soooooooooooo............ long story short(er).....

Of my 6 children, 3 needed orthodontia work. Blessing for the other three that they inherited their father's gorgeous, even, strong teeth. I had the orthodontist evaluate my mouth early on 2000 and he recommended orthognathic surgery and braces for me, but again, insurance was an issue. Every time a new child came forth to have their braces put on, their orthodontist, Dr. H, would gently say to me.... "You know, Mom, you can still get this done. They have made many changes in the technique and insurance companies are determining this to be more of a birth defect than cosmetic. I put him off year after year after year. I felt I was already compensating enough for my malocclusion so let's just concentrate on the kids. After all, braces are expensive! My kids were more important right now.

Fast forward to June 2013. My sister got braces at age 55+. She already had nice teeth, but she wanted them a little nicer. She coaxed me into returning to the orthodontist for another evaluation. I figured since the final child was just about out of his braces, maybe now is the time for me.

I went back for an evaluation with the orthodontist. He gave me lots of information on the types of surgery I may need and who to go to for the work. I spent several weeks researching medical journals, blogs and any info I could get my hands on. I even spoke with several people who had gone to the same surgeon for their surgery and had terrific outcomes.

The insurance company accepted my request for surgery as a medical necessity
and so the adventure begins. 

I will begin orthodontia with the anticipation of having surgery after 18 months in braces. I will go to Seattle under the care of Dr. B who has a phenomenal reputation for performing corrective jaw surgery when my teeth are ready, then another 18 months in braces for the completion of my treatment. Ugh! I thought to myself.... I will be close to 60 by the time I get all this finished! But WTH!
Lord willing, I still have plenty of life left in me and after graduating nursing school in my 50's, I am already embarking on a new journey. So I made my final decision based on my anticipation of a very fruitful and fulfilling future as an RN and as a woman now having the time to spend taking care of myself a little bit more.
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