My Health Journey Part 5
Updated: Jul 23
We have finally come to the present day, to where I currently stand on my health journey evolution, and what lies ahead. I’ve done a lot of work and made a lot of progress, but lingering symptoms suggest there is still something deeper going on, some missing piece of the puzzle.
And this is where things can get a little...weird.
I have some theories about what might be going on, and after talking with my doctors, chiropractor, and a whole team of dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons, the focus has turned to my teeth and jaw. I suspect that perhaps, potentially, issues with my bite and TMJ could be having a far greater impact on my overall health than anyone might expect.
(I actually heard about a book called “It’s All In Your Mouth,” which I haven’t read yet, but after listening to an interview with the dentist/author I am now wondering if maybe it really is all in my mouth!)
To make a (really) long story somewhat shorter, I had pretty severe bite issues when I was a kid. I started seeing the orthodontist when I was about 7 and had a LOT of work done – expander bar, braces, headgear, oral surgery, more braces, teeth pulled, etc. – and after about 8 years of this I finally got my braces off and thought I was DONE.
But over the years since the braces came off, I have started to notice changes in my bite – e.g. my teeth not aligning correctly - and my consistent head and neck tension made me wonder if there might be a link between the two.
After randomly coming across an article in The New York Time’s Magazine about jaw function, orthodontia, and restricted airways, I recognized a lot of the issues I had as a kid and was experiencing currently. About a week later, a podcast I was listening to (on an entirely different subject) just happened to mention a book about jaw formation and breathing issues; I got the book and ended up having a consultation with the author (an orthodontist) just a few days later to talk about what was going on for me.
Ultimately it became clear that in order to fix my bite, surgery would be necessary. Jaw surgery is obviously not something to be taken lightly, so for the next several months I went deep down the rabbit hole of investigating this idea: I talked to several surgeons, found an orthodontist who works with surgical candidates, heard first hand experiences from others who had gone through with surgery, and solicited advice from radiologists, dentists, a myofunctional specialist, and even the internet (not always the best idea, but I did get some good info!).
Finally, after much consideration, I decided I was all in. I’m not one to do things halfway, and while there are non-surgical options that could address some of my issues, I didn’t want to solve part of the problem only to have more things come up in the future.
Personally, I also feel that what is going on with my teeth and jaw may be having systemic effects far beyond my mouth. This may just be wishful thinking on my part, but as I’ve come to see and appreciate the interconnectedness of the human body, I can’t help but believe that an improperly aligned jaw and poorly functioning teeth could cause a cascade of seemingly unrelated problems.
Perhaps my jaw is causing my head and neck tension, and if my head is constantly being pulled into misalignment as it sits on my spine, perhaps that could affect nervous system function or even spinal fluid flow. It’s well established that there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain, and maybe my ongoing GI symptoms could be explained in part by what is going on in my jaw and mouth. Plus, the surgery should significantly increase my airway. If I have even mild airway restriction at the moment, it’s likely that my sleep is less than ideal - and we all know how I feel about getting good sleep!
I realize that I’m hypothesizing a lot here, and I could be completely and totally off base. When all is said and done, if this surgery only results in proper jaw function and bite occlusion, I will consider it a success.
And while there are no guarantees of success, I can’t help but be hopeful that this could be a missing link that was never on my radar until now. It may seem crazy to think that jaw surgery could change my hormone levels or how well my body’s detoxification pathways work. But I like to think of myself as an optimistic realist, so I’m heading into this surgery with high hopes, and a firm grasp of the most likely outcomes (and potential consequences).
I do not have a surgery date as of yet, but I am full steam ahead in the preparation phase. I have a full set of braces once again (which you can bet I’m super thrilled about), and have been working with a physical therapist after having a fenectomy (did I mention that I also found out I was tongue tied? This process has been full of surprises to say the least!).
As I get closer to the actual procedure, I will write more about what the surgery and recovery process will look like and how I’m planning to get through all of that. I am trying to mentally prepare myself well in advance for what is likely to be at least a few weeks of discomfort (and an all-liquid diet), and I am so grateful to have an amazing team of people helping and supporting me through all of this - and whatever comes next.
Until then, I will leave you with this quote that has come to mind for me many times over the past several months:
“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”
- Joseph Goldstein
I feel like I am facing in the right direction, and now I just have to keep on walking :)
Have you ever been through a major surgery or injury? Any strategies to mentally prepare for discomfort or for getting through the recovery phase? If you have an inspirational story or words of wisdom, please share!