Day 104: The Future

Ninjatographer strikes again!
Ninjatographer strikes again!

I realized that if I were able to open my mouth fully, my recovery would have been basically as good as I could have possibly expected it to go. However, I can’t open my mouth as wide as I should. Tonight I was able to start with 15 tongue blades somewhat easily, but try as I might I couldn’t get a 16th in. This is still progress, as I started at 11, but still not anywhere near where I should be at this juncture.

What does this mean? Well, juncture means a point of time, especially one made critical or important by a concurrence of circumstances. Pedantic win!

I met with my surgeon last week and, while he’s pleased how my teeth are coming along, he is obviously disappointed with my jaw. He takes these things personally, especially because my slow recovery is NOT my fault, nor really is it his. It’s just how my particular body reacted to the procedure. He described what is happening as “uncommon”. Not unheard of, but probably only happened a few times in his 30 years. I’ll try to describe what he THINKS is going on.

In the space where the jaw meets the side of my face is a disk, very much like the disks in your back (see diagram 20358.3927729 1/2 below). When you open your jaw, two separate things happen. At first, the condyle rotates down until the mouth is about halfway open. Then, in order to open the mouth more, that condyle glides forward, pushing into the disk. It allows the mouth to open more.

For whatever reason, my condyle is rotating fine (about halfway open mouth) but it isn’t able to shift at all. He thinks there may be something blocking it (an enlarged disk or some gunk or something else – we wouldn’t really know without an MRI). He verified this by asking me to push my lower jaw forward. I can a little, but my entire jaw shifts to the right when I try it (because that side isn’t actually pushing forward and the left side is). Also, when I try to move my jaw from side to side, I can only move it to the left about 2mm (peanuts, essentially).

So what does this mean? Peanuts is possibly the most successful and famous cartoon of all time, penned by icon Charles Schulz. If only watching the daily failings of a clinically depressed child were funny…

Anyway, my trusty surgeon has basically suggested that I will have to go back under the knife again. Nothing as severe as the first time, thankfully, but surgery is surgery. The goal here would be to open up the joint. Then, with me being knocked out, my jaw would theoretically be at its most relaxed, he would try to physically manipulate my jaw to see if he can determine/get past whatever it is blocking its progress. From there, he’d clean it out if necessary, give it a steroid injection to hopefully calm whatever is screwing the metaphorical pooch, and then wake me up.

Recovery for this wouldn’t be great, but not liquid-diet only. I’d likely have to revert back to softer foods for a week or so, and I have no idea how talking would be. Probably just like after a root canal I’m guessing.

I’m disappointed by this. But as he pointed out, there’s not much sense to having the whole major procedure allowing me better air if it means sacrificing eating anything larger than, say, a hot dog. It’s totally emasculating eating a hamburger by cutting it into thin slices.

This could happen as early as a few weeks from now. Right now, they’re trying to get my insurance to cover it, but really, he said either way we’ll likely do it, even if it means waiving his costs. You can tell he’s retired; he isn’t about trying to squeeze extra money out of this, he’s trying to make sure his final patient is able to live a happy life. He really is a phenomenal surgeon and person.

PAIN: 0

INCONVENIENCE: 5

REGRET FACTOR: 3