Saturday, September 27, 2008

Before, during and after pictures

I finally got my "after" pictures taken at my last surgeon visit, so if you would so kindly ignore the bags under my eyes, here you go! (The order goes: before braces, before surgery (with braces), and after surgery and braces removal.) Enjoy!

And here are my teeth, pre-braces, pre-surgery and post-braces and surgery:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Brace yourself...again

So, I went to my orthodontist for a follow-up appointment and guess what?

I have to get my upper braces put back on.

I wish I were messing with you and there was a really awesome punch line to insert right here, but that's not the case.

There are some spaces between my upper molars that opened up these past few months. My ortho had closed some gaps a few weeks before the braces came off and I guess they didn't "set" in their new positions and even wearing the retainers as instructed (religiously, I swear!) did not keep them from moving back.

My teeth, to anyone around me, look perfect, because you can't see the gaps. But I can feel them, particularly because anytime I eat anything, it gets impacted in the spaces and drives me absolutely crazy.

If I were only doing this for aesthetic reasons, I suppose I could live with it. But the whole point of getting the braces and surgery was to have a functional bite. I'm not willing to compromise on that. And after everything I've been through this year, this is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. I imagine it will only be a month or so and then I'll be done. Again.

So, here we go.

Bring on the tire tracks!


(On the plus side, I don't get them on until late next month, so there is lots of time for me to eat corn on the cob until then. Yay!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ask Bella: Jaw Surgey Blogging 101

Q: How do I go about creating a blog? I was really thinking that writing about and sharing my experience could not only help others, but really help me to get through this as well. Not to mention, hopefully meet people going through the same thing. I have never done a blog before and I am not too sure how to get it set up so that it's on a site with other jaw surgery candidates/patients, etc. I really do not want to have the entire world be able to view it, just the people who are going through the same things.

A: Thanks for the email. I'm glad you're thinking about a blog - I know it really helped me make my decision to read about other people's experiences, so the more information that's out there for people, the better, I say.

There are two blog platforms that I'd recommend: Blogger and Wordpress Both are user-friendly and straightforward and have templates for you to choose from for your blog layout, so there's no HTML coding or anything like that. And they're both free, which is important as well.

I've been thinking about your question about privacy and only having your blog open to other people in the jaw surgery community. That's difficult to do, because most people would find you from Google searches, so if you had your blog password protected, those people would likely not request the password - they would move on to another search result that wasn't protected. Blogger only allows you to password protect the entire blog while Wordpress lets you password protect specific posts, so that might be an option for you if you wanted to keep certain things private.

But the way I see it is this: don't put anything on the Internet that you don't want everyone reading. If it's truly private, don't put it out there. Only write about things you feel comfortable about. Use a pseudonym and an email address specific to the blog (i.e. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) to protect your identity. If you're really concerned, don't post any pics of your whole face, either. Or you could always password protect your pictures. But again, I wouldn't post anything expecting that the password protect is totally secure (people could always give your password to other people, etc.)

To connect with other jaw surgery folks, start reading their blogs and commenting on them with your blog address. Link to the blogs you read and let them know you linked to them - they may link back, which would build your readership. Leave your blog address up on the jaw surgery message boards and link lists. You'll build a community around you quickly. I wouldn't worry too much about other people not in the jaw surgery community finding your blog (particularly if you're not using your real name or email, etc.), because people aren't going to be looking for your blog unless they're going through the same thing.

Yes, there are some freaks out there. I would make sure you have a stat counter on your site ( This will allow you to see how many hits are on your blog each day and what search terms people are using to find it and the country/URL they are accessing your site from. It should be pretty straightforward to install it - it's just a code you paste into your template and you're set.

The stat counter is how I found out that 1,500 German orthodontic fetishists came to my blog in a three-day period. It was a little weird to know that, and there wasn't much I could do about it, unless I wanted to shut down the blog. Though, for the record, they never left any comments or emails. I think they just like to look at women with braces. And then they went away.

So, if you're putting your information out there, you do have to prepare yourself for the fact that there may be people using it in ways that you didn't intend. Someone may leave a rude comment, too, which could be very hurtful. (And...delete! The comment, not the blog!)

From all the emails and comments I've gotten these past few months I've had the jaw surgery blog, I really have helped a lot of people by telling my story and sharing details about my recovery. Other people helped me, and now I'm helping people. It's karma. And if a few people are freaks, so be it. I'm not going to let them get in the way of what I feel is important.

*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, September 17, 2008

Ask Bella: Ya gotta sing, sing

Q: I had jaw surgery six weeks ago and my jaw muscles feel terribly weak. It's hard to enunciate. I have this brand new speech impediment. It makes singing incredibly frustrating and discouraging. Have you been able to resume singing yet? Are you happy with your voice? Any changes?

A: I know what you mean about the speech impediment. For the first while, it hurt to touch my teeth together, so I started avoiding it; after awhile, it became a habit, so my enunciation wasn't so hot. Everyone seemed to think I was saying something naughty when I wasn't!

It was something I had to work on. It is weird to have your teeth in a different place after decades of them being in another position. It takes time to adjust. Now, I would say that my enunciation is better than it was before!

I auditioned for a musical revue at the end of August (six and a half months post-surgery) and have been rehearsing this month. I'm amazed at how much easier it is to sing now. Instead of having to thrust my jaw forward and do all kinds of jawnastics to enunciate properly as well as create enough space in my mouth for my voice, I am now able to just open my mouth and let my voice come out.

Is this really how normal people sing? Is it that easy?

I also really like the placement of my voice now. Before, I would struggle to ensue my voice was placed at the front of my mouth; now, it's just there. And I don't get headaches after singing, because it doesn't put a strain on my jaw to do it.

It feels really, really good. I can't wait to start really singing again and see what else is in store.

*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!!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Audio clip of blog post on the radio

Below is the audio clip of my blog being read by host Kelley Jo Burke on the CBC Radio Saskatchewan program, SoundXChange. I actually figured out how to embed it on this site, which is no small feat! Enjoy! [You do need to have Real Player installed to hear the file, which you can download for free here.]

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Blogging killed the radio star?

No, it most definitely did not. In fact, while there was some tension between them at first, after a few belts of scotch, they ended up telling each other their life stories, eventually collapsing in a drooling heap of exclamations of "I love you, man."

"What are you getting at, Bella?" you're all thinking. Yeah, I get that a lot.

Well, guess what? A monologue I wrote based on my post about German orthodontic fetishists finding my blog is going to air on the CBC Radio One (102.5 FM in Saskatchewan) show SoundXchange this Saturday, September 6, 5 to 6 p.m. Saskatchewan time.

The monologue will be read by the host and will appear later on in the show, about 5:45 p.m. CBC is also going to link to this blog on the SoundXchange website.

For those of you not in Saskatchewan, there will be a live stream of the program on the show's website.

Please tune in if you get a chance!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Reader experience: Chronic pain and arthritis

A few weeks ago, I got a comment on a post from someone who had lower mandibular advancement surgery 15 years ago in the same city I had mine, and is now having problems with pain and arthritis. I'm posting the comment here, so everyone can read it, as it's important to show all sides of this surgery, not just the positive results.

[I am not sure if this person had the BSSO surgery or the older version of it, and I don't know how much surgical procedures have changed in the past 15 years. I'm hoping there are less problems with newer procedures. Does anyone have information on this?]

Working From Home Today has left a new comment on your post "Three weeks ago, something cool happened":

Hi Smiling Bella,

I had jaw advancement surgery back in 1993 in SK. I wish I could say differently, but my story is not positive. Keep in mind that I don't think it's this way for everyone.

I did experience nerve damage from the surgery, I still can't feel the half of my lower lip. But that's a minor discomfort and if it were the only side effect, I wouldn't sweat it much.

The bad part for me is that over the last 15 years, my jaw has experienced severe deterioration. It's cost me thousands of dollars to be diagnosed and treated. I recently got to see Toronto's best expert on the subject. She was so amazing, so knowledgeable. After lots of testing, the diagnosis is that I will experience severe arthritis for the rest of my life. I have one more bone scan to see if it will get worse as I age. Fingers crossed, it won't. The kicker is, of course, the associated pain.

I've been prescribed industrial-strength pain relievers but I don't like the side effects. I take them only on the very bad days, about once a week and no more. The rest of the time I rely on my hard mouth splint, Shiatsu and exercise. It all helps immensely. I owe so much to the experts I've found.

I am guessing it's not like this for everyone. But I honestly don't know what I would say to people contemplating this surgery. I'm still so angry about it. I can't wait to go back to SK, where I fully intend to take my scans and MRIs into the office of the oral surgeon who conducted my original surgery. It's a conversation we need to have.

Of course, I can't prove the damage is related to the initial surgery because, as I'm told repeated by the country's best experts, adequate long term studies have never been done.

My firm belief now is that this one of the most complex joints in the human body. It should not be handled by orthodontists.

Meanwhile, I look forward to reading your blog. I suspect I'll find some excellent advice. Congrats on your braces!


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