Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ask Bella: Acupuncture

Q: I've never had accupuncture before and am scared of the little needles. But I am tempted to try it, after having read your website. Would you strongly recommend it for the numbness? I also had a genioplasty (where they take your chin bone and slide it out forward to create more of a chin), and I can't even remotely feel ANY sensation in my chin. Which is, apparently, normal. But if I can speed up the process of the numbness going away, I'd love to do it. I'm just a little scared.

A: The first time I had acupuncture, I was scared, too. But it doesn't hurt that much, if at all. I mean, think about everything you've been through so far - do you really think acupuncture with its teensy little needles will ever compare to having a bone saw taken to your face? After what you've been through, you can handle anything!!

Also, some naturopaths or physiotherapists do it, which means you might be able to find someone who can help you with all of your post-surgery recovery needs. It's important to find an acupuncturist you can communicate well with. I've had some excellent acupuncturists who could barely speak English. They were great at what they did, but it was difficult to understand them, so if you had any questions or wanted them to explain what they're doing to you, you were out of luck. If you haven't had it done before, keep that in mind!

I did notice a big change in the numbness after I started going to acupuncture. Everyone's different, but it really helped me.

*To ask Bella a question about her jaw surgery, email her at smilingbella at gmail dot com or leave a comment on this post. Go ahead: ask away!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ask Bella: Lymph drainage massage

Q: I was considering a lymph drainage massage, but my oral surgeon said, "I have no idea what that is, so I don't know if it's a good idea." But you did have one, and you said you noticed a difference, correct? Was it at all uncomfortable? And would you recommend it?

A: Lymph drainage is very gentle - like a butterfly touch - and it drains the swelling like crazy. I couldn't believe how effective it is, particularly because the guy "massaging" my face barely touched me. It made such a huge difference.

The only regret I had was that I should have gone the day after the surgery instead of waiting two weeks. I was very swollen and lopsided from the swelling, and after one session I noticed a huge difference. The homeopathic remedy Arnica is great for helping to reduce swelling, too, and you can find it at most health food stores.

It sounds like your surgeon is pretty traditional. Some doctors are strictly medicine/surgery, while others are more open to complementary medicine and alternatives.

Just so you know, all of the remedies and treatments I have used post-surgery are things that have been used by many other people who have gone through the same surgery - just check the online jaw surgery support groups found in my sidebar for examples of others who have done the same. (That being said, please consult with your surgeon or doctor before taking any supplements or natural remedies.)

*To ask Bella a question about her jaw surgery, email her at smilingbella at gmail dot com or leave a comment on this post. Go ahead: ask away!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Willkommen, Ich bin Bella

As you know, in February, I started this blog to chronicle my jaw surgery. My vision was that it would be a site for people seeking out information about what to expect when they went under the bone saw. I also saw it as a good way for my co-workers, family and friends to see how I was doing while I was at home recovering.

It's a specialized site that I've promoted on the jaw surgery forums I frequent, so it has a small, specific audience. When it began, the blog got an average of 15-30 hits per day. So, when I went to my stats page one day and saw that my site had gotten 599 hits in one day, I was more than a little surprised.

I did some digging to see where all of these new readers were coming from, and the same website popped up for all of them. It appeared to be a forum for people with braces. When I tried to click on the link, it wouldn't let me in without a user name and password. So, I created one, expecting admission to the site would be immediate.

Not so much.

My membership had to be approved by the site administrator first.


As I waited for the approval, I watched my stat counter reach more than 500 hits again the next day. What on earth was going on?

When I finally received my Willkommen email (that should have been my first hint), I began clicking around to see what the site was about and why I was suddenly so popular. While nothing on the site is overtly stated, it quickly became clear to me that it isn't a support group for people with braces, as I had assumed by its name.

It is...

what I can only presume to be...

wait for it...

a German orthodontic fetish website.

If you are choking on a retainer or a loose wire right now, I'll give you a moment to regain your composure.


Alright then.

The page where my URL is posted is titled, "erwachsene frauen" or "adult women" and all it contains are links and links and links to pictures of women with braces. The pictures aren't dirty or provocative, just photos of unsuspecting women smiling with braces on their teeth, likely lifted from websites, forums and blogs like mine.

If this isn't a fetish site, I don't know what else it could be. Because otherwise, what's the point?

I imagine that part of the thrill is the fact that the women don't know their pictures are being used in this way; they are unknowing participants or even victims of this fetish.

And while part of me is a little disturbed by this development, I do have to note that after my URL were not one, but two exclamation points.

Yup, braces or not, I've still got it.

The funny thing is, the 1,500 alleged German orthodontic fetishists who flooded my site for three days in April actually did me a big favour. After the Germans came, my site traffic jumped from 15-30 hits per day to 75-100 hits per day, and it has stayed that way. My stats tell me these new visitors are the result of legitimate searches for jaw surgery-related terms, not more hits from the same site.

From what I understand, because of the huge spike in hits, Google's crawlers took note of my website and prioritized it in their searches. Now, when people who are looking for information on jaw surgery and recovery, they find my site. So in a weird way, the fetishists helped me help other people going through the same thing.

How thoughtful of them! How am I ever to repay their kindness or thank them for what they have contributed to the jaw surgery community?

I considered taking some pictures of sauerkraut stuck in my arch wires, or maybe a big German sausage against my brackets. But that was too much work. The post-surgery anemia makes me tired, don't you know.

In the end, I decided to devote my final braces colours to my legions of German fans. The bracket ties are bands of black, red and gold - the colours of the German flag. See?

Genießen Sie, meine Freunde.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Smiling Bella

I googled the name of my blog for kicks the other night, and the third entry that popped up was this:

It's the "Smiling Bella" Female Latex Mask!

According to the website: "No matter what you intend to do with this mask, one thing is certain: you are going to have lots of fun, guaranteed!"

Only if your guaranteed fun includes being totally creeped out by yourself and your ghoulish smile.

All I can say is, my face better not look like this once my recovery is complete, or I want my money back!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ask Bella: Supplements and nerve regrowth

Q: I was just reading your post from Mar. 30 where you mentioned the odds of nerve damage following BSSO increasing with one's age. My surgeon brought up B12 as something he might want me to take. He said there's some research going on to see if it will help. Do you have references that support the use of B12?

A: B12 supplement is a very good thing to take before/after the surgery. My naturopath recommended it for me to take as well because it's very good for nerve repair. I found a really cool B12 product that's perfect for when your jaw is wired shut: B12 dissolving strips that are like those Listerine Pocket Packs. They're even minty!

If you have the opportunity to go to a naturopath, I'd recommend it. There are some homeopathic remedies can help with nerve pain/regrowth, such as Hypericum Perforatum. It's worth looking into.

*To ask Bella a question about her jaw surgery, email her at smilingbella at gmail dot com or leave a comment on this post. Go ahead: ask away!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ask Bella: Post-surgical depression

Q: I discovered you blog via a google search of "orthognathic surgery recovery depression." My son had surgical advancement of both lower and upper jaws on June 6. My question is regarding depression. He does not want to see any of his friends, which I am attributing to mild post surgical depression. He said it's because they make him smile and laugh which still hurts. Do you think I should insist that he he allow his friends to visit? How important were/are visits from friends during your recovery time?

A: I can really relate to what your son is going through. And it sounds like his surgery was far more extensive than mine, so his recovery will likely be more difficult.

Depression post-surgery is quite common, from what I've read, and what I've experienced first-hand. During the surgery, they pump you full of steroids to keep the swelling down. The steroids stay in your system for a week and during that time, you're feeling pretty good. Then, after a week, you go into steroid withdrawal and crash into depression.

It was very severe for me and I was absolutely miserable. Fortunately, it passed quite quickly - three or four days at the bottom and then things got better, particularly after I talked online with other people who had had the surgery and been through the same kind of thing. (I also went through a bout of depression at the three-month mark, which you can read about here.)

I can also relate to his problem of being in pain after having fun. I have had jaw problems for a number of years and have often felt torn between doing what's going to be healthy for me psychologically (i.e. going out and having fun with friends) or what was best for my jaw. Because going out, having fun, and laughing and smiling with my friends meant that I would have migraines for four days afterward and pretty much not be able to do anything. So, was it worth it? Or to what extent could I do it? Could I try not to have too much fun?

I wouldn't push him too hard, but I might suggest limited activities, such as going out for ice cream for just 1/2 an hour, or going to a movie so there wouldn't be too much talking/laughing but he'd still be out and around other people, which is important. Maybe his friends could bring over some DVDs or video games?

I think it's important not to isolate yourself when you're recovering, but at the same time, I get where he's coming from. I found that for a month after my surgery, I was very exhausted and had to have a two-hour nap after I did just about anything, even laundry. So, don't push him too hard, but make sure he doesn't totally cut himself off from the rest of the world while he's still listening to his body's need for rest.

Best of luck to you both!

*To ask Bella a question about her jaw surgery, email her at smilingbella at gmail dot com or leave a comment on this post. Go ahead: ask away!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Into the home stretch

I had my first post-surgery teeth cleaning on Friday. My gums were so sore from the baking soda tooth-blasting tool they used, but man, my teeth feel so clean! The dental hygienist marvelled at the difference the surgery made to my smile and asked me the changes I noticed.

I told her that just that morning, I was eating my organic shreddie-esque cereal and marvelling at how my teeth fit together. As I chewed the cereal using all of my teeth - front, sides, back, every possible surface an option, it dawned on me that this is how "normal" people eat.

They don't have to do strange jawnastics, using their tongues to make all the food go to the back of their mouths and to the right side, and then chew sideways to make their teeth meet correctly. They just chew. Up and down. What a concept.

Being able to chew without effort is something most people take for granted, but I think it will always fill me with a bit of wonder. I can't imagine taking it for granted after all this.

I went to my orthodontist last week as well, and he said that I can get my braces off anytime - I just have to coordinate with my dentist to have my gaps filled in before they can make my retainers.

When they did the surgery, they moved my upper teeth forward to make space for my lower jaw to advance. After this surgery, it is quite common that the upper teeth don't end up fitting together perfectly, leaving a few gaps that will need to be filled in with white composite fillings.

The earliest I can see my dentist to do this is September 3, so I may be stuck with the braces until then. I'll meet with my orthodontist next week to find out the plan for sure. But after everything I've been through so far, waiting an extra month for everything to come together is totally worth it.

Plus, I'm going to get my dentist to fill in the little chips in my two front teeth that I've had since I was a little kid. And I'm going to get my teeth whitened while I'm at it.

I can barely wipe the grin off my face already!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The soup recipe to end all soup recipes

My friend Krista sent me this very versatile soup recipe just before my jaw surgery. If you're creative, you can use it for just about any flavour combination you can think of. Let me know how your experiments go, and I'll post any recipe ideas that result!

Cream of anything soup

Onion, diced
Potato, peeled, diced
2 cups of any vegetable
Vegetable or chicken stock
Spices and/or fresh herbs
Cream, if desired

Saute an onion. Add potato, vegetables and spices. Cover with broth/stock. Simmer until all veggies are soft.

Puree. Top with cream and fresh herbs, if desired.

Note: If you're making the soup with sweet potato or similar starchy veggie, you won't need the extra potato for creaminess. And if you want high-fat cream of anything, skip the potato and just use cream.

And of course, if you're trying to up your protein content post-surgery, you'll want to put extra skim milk powder or other high-protein additions into the final product.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ask Bella: Advice

Q: I'm 15 and my lower jaw stopped growing in the first grade. I live in a small community and go to a small high school. Everyone except my best friends make fun of me and this has been going on for such a long time...fifth grade. I'm a sophomore now. I don't get my surgery until next summer. Will they have to remove my wisdom teeth before that? And do you have any advice you could give me? Most of the time, I dread everyday at school.

A: My heart just goes out to you. This sounds like such a horrible situation. I mean, elementary and high school are hard enough to get through without major jaw problems and people teasing you about it.

I'm glad you have best friends who are good to you, and at least you have a problem that is fixable, you know? Think about all of those people who get teased for things that they could never change, even if they wanted to.

One year seems like a lifetime right now, but in one year, no one is going to be able to tease you about your jaw or teeth again. If your problem is that noticeable right now, imagine what a dramatic difference the surgery is going to make! You are going to look fantastic. I bet people who've known you for years won't even recognize you! It's really exciting, when you think about it.

Try to concentrate on the end results. Make a calendar counting down the days/weeks/months until your surgery. You probably don't have a date yet, but estimate one and outline it in glitter and bright colours. When people tease you, just say to yourself, "Wow, they're pretty stupid to be teasing me about something so superficial. Just xxx more days and this will all be over."

Of course, if they're really nasty people, they'll find other things to tease you about that have nothing to do with your jaw. But some people are just jerks that way. They're probably insecure about the way they look and tease other people to distract everyone from their own flaws. Losers.

It's great that you're getting the surgery done while you're young, by the way. The younger you get it done, the quicker you heal and the less chance there is to be complications with nerve damage and that sort of thing. As much as it sucks, you're really fortunate to be doing this now, and not having to live for another 17 years (like me) with a short jaw and the pain it brings, physically and psychologically.

So, hooray for you!

And yes, from everything I've read about the surgery, you do have to have your wisdom teeth removed first. Fortunately, I had mine out when I was in my late teens, so I didn't have to worry about that before my jaw surgery.

Just one tip for you: If you can, go to an oral surgeon to have your wisdom teeth out and get them to give you the good drugs (IV drugs). I know some people who just went to a dentist to have them out and were quite traumatized. Besides, any excuse is a good excuse for the good drugs, in my books.

Best of luck to you, and please let me know how you are doing as things progress!

*To ask Bella a question about her jaw surgery, email her at smilingbella at gmail dot com or leave a comment on this post. Go ahead: ask away!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Super spinach salad

If any of you are having problems with post-surgery anemia, like I am, and you can chew softer foods, try this spinach salad. A friend gave me this recipe and I have been eating the salad non-stop ever since. It tastes awesome, but what's best about it is that it combines Vitamin C (from the strawberries) with the iron from the spinach, so your body will actually absorb the iron. Hooray!

Spinach Salad

Baby spinach
Sliced strawberries
Cilantro (or parsley)
Red onion
Feta cheese (or Chèvre)
Toasted pecans (or other nut/seeds)
Renee's Pear Guava salad dressing (or other sweet dressing, like raspberry vinaigrette)


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ask Bella: Physiotherapy and range of motion, part two

Q: As I read this, I am at work propping my mouth open with a pile of tongue depressors. They do make me tear up in the beginning, but now I went from 27 mm to almost 35 mm in about a week! Not too shabby. I'm hoping to get to the 40 mm mark in a week or two. I think I can do it...just need to buy more tongue depressors! (I'm up to 18, and I only bought 20). Anyway have you ever tried this?

A: Wow - 27 mm to 35 mm in one week? That's got to be some kind of a record or something! Congratulations! I was surprised at how well stacking tongue depressors on top of each other and using them to pry my mouth open works. (I'm up to about 24 tongue depressors at the moment.)

Once I grew out of my jaw jack, my surgeon told me to try this trick and attempt to add one more tongue depressor each day.

It's difficult, because the tongue depressors don't have any "give" to them like the jaw jack does, so once you've got them in there, they're in there. I'm a bit claustrophobic, so I have to remind myself that I can easily pull a couple of them out and I won't be stuck like that.

Another thing about the tongue depressors that is a bit annoying is that they really dry your mouth out, which can be uncomfortable. I was thinking that something that might help is to get a latex glove and put the tongue depressors in the fingers, stacking them on top of each other that way. Then, you get the advantages without the disadvantages.

Thanks for reminding me about this - I can't believe I didn't mention it before. The best thing about it is that it's a cheap alternative to some of the more expensive medical jaw stretching devices out there, and it works just as well.

Anyone else have good jaw rehabilitation tips they can share?

*To ask Bella a question about her jaw surgery, email her at smilingbella at gmail dot com or leave a comment on this post. Go ahead: ask away!!


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