Monday, 16 March 2015

Perfect pinup smile

If you follow my Facebook, you may have seen a post I made recently about my smile. I smile a lot, I have a ridiculous sense of humour and laugh a lot. But I hate, hate, hate seeing photos of myself at certain angles, smiling at the camera. I always tried to avoid it, but since I've been standing in front of the camera a bit more in the last couple of years, I've pretty much stopped smiling on film full stop.

A rare, front-facing shot of me taken by Danielle Hamilton Photography | MUAH by the Lindy Charm School

We all have body hang ups. I’ve got a list of them, but the biggest one for as long as I can remember has been my teeth. I’d looked into fixing them and getting braces at various periods of my adult life, but every quote I got involved removing my remaining wisdom teeth (just two, on the bottom), plus four pre-molars — one from both top and bottom on either side of my mouth. This would have to be done in surgery, and the braces would have to go on about a week later. Left any longer, the teeth start to move and you have to go through all your set-up and quoting again. This always stopped me from going forward because of the cost of the surgery, plus the cost of the braces so quickly after, was impossible for me to manage every time I started to investigate.
Terrible photo, day of surgery, illustrating terrible teeth. Yes, this attractive creature is the same one in the bath above...
Late last year I decided that 2015 was the start of ‘operation smile’ and I once again went through all the initial appointments, found an orthodontist who worked for me (more on that in another post), met with a surgeon, booked surgery dates and well, here we are… with T -1 day until I start my Invisalign treatment.

I want to document my treatment because as an adult getting orthodontic work, there’s more to consider than just the cost — and that in itself is considerable — and it wasn’t something I could find a lot to read about when I was in research mode. It’s also something that’s obviously going to have an effect on being a pinup, particularly for photoshoots, and not something I’ve seen documented before.
So here’s the story about my surgery. I will back track in some upcoming posts, so I can talk a bit about choosing an orthodontist and my experience, which wasn’t at all pleasant, and also about making the decision to go forward with Invisalign over other treatment options.

As much as I wanted to avoid having teeth out, I’d known for a while that I wasn’t going to get my smile fixed without it happening. So when my new orthodontist told me to have the same four pre-molars and two wisdoms out, I asked to be referred to a surgeon.

I had an initial appointment with my surgeon just before Christmas, where he told me about what would happen at the surgery, explained the risks and booked in a date.

Fast-forward to just over a week ago, when I arrived at the hospital at around 11am, ready for lunch and a big sleep. There are lots of stages to having day surgery, and lots of waiting and being moved from area-to-area. By the time I got to the point where I was talking with a nurse, my blood pressure was really high. But then the excitement died down, I got into a hospital gown and robe and went to sit in a recliner for a couple of hours. When they finally came to get me, the jitters set in for real and so by the time I was put on the bed in theatre, I was shaking and cold and not really cool with what was about to happen.

It didn't help then that my wonky veins gave the anaesthetist a bit of trouble and he couldn't get a line in to put me to sleep. It’s pretty scary, lying in a cold operating room, listening to the people who are going to be operating on you getting ready. I wanted to be asleep by this time! He decided to put me to sleep with the gas, and then what seemed like minutes later, I was waking up in the recovery room… crying. This is the second time I've been under general anaesthetic and I woke up the first time crying too. I think it’s the disorientation, it’s so weird to go to sleep in one place and wake up in the other without having any memory of the sleep — no tossing or turning, no moments of lighter sleep — just awake and asleep.

This is the point to mention that the nurses at St Andrew’s were brilliant. A chat while they’re wheeling you to the theatre, a gentle touch of the brow while you’re waiting to be put out, holding your hand and helping you deep breath through a panic attack are all things that comfort you in those situations.

My mouth was completely numb from a local anaesthetic, my tongue was like a dead slug and then they wrapped this chipmunk cheek-icepack around my face — super attractive. Even the tip of my nose was numb! At this point, I was really regretting the decision to have my teeth out. It’s not pleasant at all to not be able to feel your face.

In second recovery, they gave me a cup of water. This was a huge disaster as when she came back, it was all down the front of my hospital gown, along with a fair bit of the red stuff. I think I resembled my Zombie Snow White for real at this point.

I'm pretty sure this is what I looked like when the nurse came in...

But then I got dressed, drank a bit more water and my sister came to pick me up. The trip home took forever and I cried and whinged a fair bit. The worst part was that when the anaesthetic started to wear off, I couldn’t take any pain relief because I couldn’t swallow properly to get it down. I kept waking up during the night and testing if I’d stopped being numb – getting progressively more worried at 3am when most of my face, minus my chin, most of my tongue and bottom lip hadn’t come back. I panicked because I knew there was a risk that when the wisdoms came out, that the nerves that look after that part of your mouth could be affected. The surgeon had told me it could come back, but it might also be permanent.
The chipmunk look is totally pinup, right? 

When I woke again around 5am, I could feel the rest of my face, but the relief was short-lived because that’s when the pain really set in. Luckily though, this was the sort of pain that could be managed with a good dose of painkillers, lots of sleep and quite a bit of whinging. My worst day was probably Sunday, which was the day that all the grossness in my tummy affected me as much as my pain levels and made me feel quite sick. It was also probably the day I looked the most swollen.
It took me around five days to feel right enough to function, and today, ten days after surgery, I have some pain, but more a dull ache that is manageable with Neurofen.

This was the worst day, and I was super-swollen
I spent a week on a liquid diet of smoothies, chocolate milkshakes, custard, mashed potato and mashed sweet potato, poached eggs and soup and returned to a ‘soft’ solid diet on Friday. I thought the liquid diet would be torture, but it wasn’t too bad. The soft diet is harder work as I’ve got to chew in the front part of my mouth, tiny mouthfuls.

If you’re about to have mouth surgery, my tips are basically the tips I was given by friends:

  • Sleep upright, either in a recliner or propped up with many, many pillows. Your back will not thank you, but it’s much more comfortable for your face, plus it stops bruising and helps the swelling go down quickly. I had zero bruising (unless you count my arm which was bruised from multiple attempts to get a line in.
  • Go shopping for lots of liquid food before and/or make soup. I was lucky, I had a chief soup maker around to make me some.
  • Try and get a bit of sun. I sat outside with my family for a bit on Sunday and it definitely made me feel more human (I didn’t look it though).
  • Icepack always. They don’t do much in terms of preventing bruising, but they definitely make you feel better.

In a couple of days, I'll tell you all about getting my Invisalign started! 

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