In elementary school, I started noticing that I looked different, and other children did as well. By middle school, I was practicing holding my jaw open while closing my lips. For pictures, I would smile with my lower jaw open. It made my under-bite look less noticeable. That was the point. I didn’t want to look different. I didn’t want to look ugly. Throughout school I was bullied and asked questions about my appearance.
My paternal grandmother had an under-bite, and I completely blamed her for my looks. Everyone said I looked like her, and it made me cringe. I didn’t want to look like her. She was a great woman, and she was someone to look up to. However, no one compared my attributes to her. They only compared my appearance.
When I was fifteen, my mother took me to a dentist to see what could be done about my jawline. He said that my jaw would not stop growing until I was at least seventeen, and then I would need surgery to correct the under-bite. We didn’t have insurance, and I knew that by the time my jaw stopped growing it would become my problem. My parents didn’t have the money to pay for surgery. If I wanted my bite fixed I would have to pay for the surgery myself.
My senior year in high school I met the perfect guy. He moved from Florida after joining the Air Force, and I knew he was special. After a few months he worked up the nerve to ask me out. By that time, I had many years of practicing how to hold my jaw so it was less noticeable. The weird thing was that he didn’t mind. He grew to love me for me. If he thought I was beautiful the way I was, then I needed to marry this guy. Kevin won my heart, and I grew to love him more and more.
Three years after our wedding, I told him I wanted to correct my under-bite. I wanted to feel pretty. We did some research, and I watched a video of a girl who had the same surgery that I needed. The video was eye opening, and even though it was going to be tough I still wanted to correct my bite. I met with an orthodontist, and he and the surgeon worked together to form my treatment.
I was worried that the surgery wasn’t going to be covered by my insurance, but it was medically necessary. Because of my bite I couldn’t chew food correctly which hindered digestion. If I didn’t correct the bite, I would have major digestion problems later in life.
My sister, who also had a severe under-bite and tilted jaw had her surgery one year before me. When I walked into the recovery room and saw her face swollen three times the normal size, I almost threw up. I don’t vomit easily, and I can handle a lot of gross things. Seeing my sister post-op was almost more than I could handle.
Her mouth was wired shut, and she had a breathing tube down her throat. It was terrible seeing my baby sister like that. She recovered beautifully and is one of the most beautiful women I know. She is amazing.
In the back of my mind, I knew that was going to be me in the hospital in a year. It freaked me out a bit. To prepare for the surgery, I had two outpatient surgeries before the maxillofacial surgery. Both were with local anesthesia only. I was awake when all four of my wisdom teeth were removed, and when a canine tooth had to be exposed for the brace to put on.
The time for my surgery came, and I wanted it to be done in the summer so I could recover before resuming college classes in the fall. July 17, 2005, I went into surgery. I kissed my husband and prayed I would wake up. And wake up beautiful. The seven hour surgery went great. I didn’t have to be wired shut, but I did have a two piece cast in my mouth. The tightest rubber bands imaginable were connected to my braces to hold my bite in place. My jaw still has 21 tiny titanium screws holding it together. Of course, my jaw bone has healed now, but I have no desire to remove the screws. I refused to look at myself in the mirror for seven days after the surgery. I was scared of what I would see.
While I was in the hospital my sinus cavity was so swollen I could barely breath. The nurse gave me the option of having my sinuses sucked out by a six inch metal tube, or they would have to insert a breathing tube. I opted for the metal tube. She put the entire tube up my nose and sucked out all the mucus. It was the most pain I have ever experienced (And I have had three children). I felt as though my brain was being pulled from my skull down through my nose. The nurse did that three times while I was in the hospital. That will make you want to have the surgery, won’t it?
For six weeks I had my mouth rubber banded shut with the cast. I only had three weeks off of work, so I had to return to work swollen and barely able to speak. I worked at a women’s mammography clinic, and the patients would talk to me like I was slow in the head or didn’t know English. It was mortifying.
During those six weeks I could only have liquids. As a result I lost twelve pounds. All the Sonic fruit smoothies probably kept me from losing more. It took months before the swelling went down. After another year in braces, I was finally done with the entire process.
Now I look in the mirror, and I’m pleased with the results. I don’t feel ugly any more. I no longer get asked what’s wrong with my mouth. The maxillofacial surgery, the pain, and the process was completely worth it. It might seem vain to have surgery to correct an under-bite, but for me it was absolutely necessary.