Wednesday, 15 April 2015

FAQ Orthognathic Surgery

After spending hour upon hour and day upon day searching the internet, sometimes all you need is a quick FAQ section to put your mind at rest. Here is list of questions my readers frequently ask.

How long ago was your surgery?

I had my first surgery in August 2011 and my plate removal surgery in December 2012. So 3.5 and 2 years ago.

Did you feel unhappy with the way you looked before surgery?

Yes I felt unhappy with the way I looked. Growing up for a girl in modern society is not the easiest thing to go through. I know, I know, first world problems. But when you are a 13 year old school girl being bullied for the way you look and seeing your friend’s receive attention from boys, you do not really see the bigger picture. I would not say I had it too bad. Looking back, I had some great friends, both boys and girls and was able to get through school with ease. Of course there would be the odd incident or name calling. The worse was being spat on.  But by and large I had it good compared to others. I thank my friends and the school for that.

For many years I felt uncomfortable with the way I looked. So I would hold my head to the side and sit on a certain side of the bus, as to not offend anyone with the “worst side” of my face. Although both sides were pretty odd looking. At the age of 17 I was attacked on a bus and this really knocked my confidence. So much so, that for many years I would not even leave the house alone. When I passed my driving test, things became a little easier. But you would never find me walking along the street alone or going to the shops.

After the trauma of my first operation, I became a total recluse. I did not want to go out. I became scared of the world. I often had flashbacks from the attack and would worry about somebody smashing my face in or falling and breaking my face. I could not go through that pain again, so I retreated into myself. The only time I would leave the house would be to go to my hospital appointments.  I finally started to receive some help for my agoraphobia and anxiety after my first operation. This has helped me a lot. I still have the odd panic attack and I am still anxious and on high alert when I leave the house. But anything is an improvement on what I used to be like.
Before the operations I used to notice people staring at me. Some people would whisper and the old ladies would often say “oh you poor love”.  Since the operations I feel like I am not so much of an easy target. I sort of blend into the background now.

I would not say I am 100% happy with the way I look. But who can be in a society that popularises perfection and cloning. I will never look like the symmetrical tanned models in the magazine. But I do not need to. I am unique. It has taken a long time for me to accept this but, I do not want to be somebody else. For once in my life, I want to be me! Flaws and all.

Did you have any problems before surgery?

Other than the psychological issues experienced before surgery, I had a terrible underbite. My back teeth did not meet at all. I had to chew on my front teeth only. I also found it hard to smile and talk at times.  On top of this the asymmetry was putting quite a lot of pressure on my TMJ and 2 years before surgery I started to develop crippling left sided facial pain. I was diagnosed with Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia and TMJ dysfunction. I was put on muscle relaxants, powerful pain medications and antidepressants. I went from being a fit young woman who loved to dance, swim and cycle, who had 3 jobs and was studying for her BA Hons, to a weak heap on so much medication I could not even string a sentence together.

I did feel like the operation was the only option I had. My surgeon had warned me that the operation may make my pain 100x worse, but I was desperate. I did not care. I could not live another day with the pain I was in. I had to try something, anything! At the time of the operation, my brace work had placed my teeth to one side of my jaw. I could only chew on one side of my mouth. So realistically I did not have much of a choice in the matter.

To find out more, click here. 

How do people react to you now, compared to before surgery?

Before surgery some people would make comments. There were a few incidents where 2 different boys spat on me on the way home from school. I feel a lot of my esteem issues came after visiting the hospital in Sidcup. I used to dread going to my appointments. They made me feel like a freak. I remember one of the surgeons coming in briefly and saying “don’t worry we will sort that out”, like my face was something to be ashamed of. It felt like I did not have a choice in the matter. When I transferred to Mr Matthews’ team at Guy’s Hospital things changed. Although, I tried so hard to find a way of not having the brace work before surgery they told me that it would be the best option for me. They also said the decision about my treatment was down to me. If I was not ready to have the treatment now, they would wait for me.

Immediately after surgery there was a mixture of reactions. Some of my friends and family noticed the change straight away. As others, could not really see the change. I was swollen for a very long time after surgery and the sinus infections did not help the situation. Now I feel like people are more positive about the way I look. I receive the odd nasty comment. But I believe most people will experience that. Out of habit I still show my “best side” in photos or when I conduct myself in daily life. My surgeon and orthodontist are both pleased with my final bite result. Other medical professionals have all been impressed with my surgeon’s work.

To read more about people's reaction soon after surgery, click here. 

Did the surgery stop you from grinding your teeth?

Because of my asymmetrical bite I never did grind my teeth. I would find myself clenching quite a bit after surgery. But I suppose that was down to my bite being in a completely new position. I have spoken to a lot of patients who have found they grind and clench a lot less since their surgery.

Did the surgery stop your jaw joints from clicking?

My jaw joints still click and I still have a slipped piece of cartilage in my right joint. So this sometimes causes my joint to click. When I first started opening my jaw after surgery I found that my jaw would click a lot. Almost every time I opened my jaw. Rest assured this is very common after surgery. Even now, if i find my joint is clicking a lot I will use a heat pad to soothe the area. I also carry on with my jaw opening and strengthening exercises.

Does your bite feel stable now?

Yes! Now I am 3 years post orthognathic surgery my bite feels a lot more stable. I do have times were I feel like my muscles are trying to pull on my jaw and force it back into its original position. When this happens I tend to wear my retainers more often and use heat pads to soothe the muscles. Sometimes my teeth will cross one another and get stuck. This was quite frightening the first time it happened. I spoke to my surgeon straight away and he put my mind at ease. I went to have an examination and he also took some x-rays. He was happy with the stability of the bite.

I feel like it is important to write here that although relapse is rare, it can happen. I have spoken to 2 women who were 3 years and 8 years post op and experienced relapse. If you feel as if you are experiencing more pain than normal, or if your bite is unstable please contact your dentist or doctor. 9 times out of 10 it will be nothing, but it is so important to get checked out. 

Do you still get sinus infections?

Yes, unfortunately I still experience sinus infections. Since my surgery, I started to develop reoccurring sinus infections. I had never had a sinus infection in my life before this point. It was hoped by removing the upper jaw titanium plates that this would resolve the issue. But it has not. I still suffer from sinus infections but I do not experience them as often now.

To read my blog about sinus infections, click here.

Why did you have your plates removed after jaw surgery?
I had my plates removed following reoccurring sinus infections and lower jaw pain. The screws in my top jaw were poking through into my nasal cavity. It was assumed by the ENT doctor that these were causing irritation to my sinuses, thus causing the infections. The lower plates would really hurt in cold weather. Because I do not have a lot of flesh around my lower jaw, the plates were sometimes visible. I have a very slender jaw line so the muscles would clench and pull around the plate sites causing pain and discomfort. Since having the plates removed the frequency of sinus infections has decreased and my lower jaw pain has decreased. The muscles still spasm around the jaw, but it is not as painful now the plates have been removed.

To read my blog about plate removal surgery and recovery, click here.

How long did you have to wear braces?

I wore my braces for a total of 3 years and only had them on 4 months after surgery.

To read my blog about coping with braces, click here

What is the pain like after surgery?

It is important to note that everybody is unique. Everybody has a different pain threshold, some people have pain and issues before surgery and some people have relatively quick and easy procedures. Predicting how this surgery will affect you is impossible.

I know some patients who have no pain at all when they wake up. They go on to have a quick and easy recovery and do not have any lasting issues. Realistically, I was never going to be one of those people. I have gone through life and created a challenge no matter where I went. After the first surgery I experienced the worst pain of my life. I would not have wished this pain on my worst enemy.

To read my blog about coping with long term pain, click here.

What is the pain like now?

Pain Level in 2011: 10
Pain Level 2013: 5/6
Pain Level 2014: 5/6 sometimes 7

Pain levels are stable and mostly controllable. However, I have been experiencing a lot of migraines and optical nerve pain this year. Muscle spasms and muscle strength has not improved. Current pain medications include: co-codamol 30/500mg, ibuprofen 400mg, Amitriptyline 20mg, Sumatriptan Nasal Sprays 20mg and Diazepam 5mg. I am still taking raspberry ketones, green tea extract, multivitamins and fish oil supplements. It really is not ideal and I do worry about the effects these medications are having on my body. I have tried to cut the medications down, but these attempts have been unsuccessful. I have recently started using Sumatriptan and Diazepam because my migraines and muscle pain was becoming relentless. I had a crazy migraine on the whole of the right side of my head for 5 days straight. The pain would start at the top of my head; travel down my face and also through my eye to the back of my head. When this happens, the nerve that runs down my right arm fires off and I cannot grip with my right hand. These episodes started to become a weekly occurrence and it was stopping me from functioning at all. I could not read or drive, so I decided to try some new pain medications. I am quite sensitive to many medications, so I was very reluctant to try anything new. I have tried muscle relaxants in the past and they had a very negative effect on me.

Find out more, click here. 

Do you need to have more surgery?

After seeing my surgeon in September I made the decision not to undergo anymore surgery. My joints are reasonably healthy and my bite is good. I could undergo a genioplasty to straighten my chin, but this will not impact on my bite or pain levels. If anything, replacing my face with more metal work may make my pain worse. After weighing up the pros and cons, I decided against having anymore surgery.

What did you use to ease the pain?

Immediately after surgery I was in so much pain. Unimaginable pain! Nothing could have prepared me for what happened. In the beginning I used ice packs continuously. I also took high strength pain killers and rested as much as I could. It was impossible to sleep, so I spent my days highly drugged up, in agony, listening to Disney movies. I positioned myself in an upright position and used 4-6 pillows to support my head, neck and back.  Knowing what I know now I would have drank a lot more green tea and pineapple juice. Both of these can act as natural anti-inflammatories. I would have also tried listening to sleep hypnosis and guided meditation.

To read my bog about how to sleep after surgery, click here.

Were you worried or scared before surgery?

I was petrified before surgery. Even up until I went into the aesthetic room I was crying and I genuinely thought I was going to die. The thought of never seeing my mum and brother again really upset me. The anaesthetist was really cold and heartless. She even said “Well you don’t have to go through with it, we can cancel”. After waiting my whole life and after experiencing so much pain I hardly had a choice to just walk away from the operation. I was in such a state leading up to my operation, but I managed to keep a lot of my fears to myself.

To read my blog "The Night before Surgery", click here. 

What are your 5 top tips for a speedy recovery?

1. Make sure you are prepared. Have 4 bags of frozen peas at home; make sure you have a blender, plenty of pillows, DVDs, books and someone there to help for the first few weeks.
2. Book a reasonable amount of time off of work/ college. It is so important not to rush your recovery. 
3. Don’t panic or stress. Realise that this is a huge operation and you should be compassionate with yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Some people experience little or no pain and are back to normal within a few weeks. As others have a longer and more complex recovery. No one person is the same.
4. Eat/ Drink well. Make sure you eat and drink well. 2 litres of fresh still water a day and lots of high vitamin rich soups and food. I know it is tempting to overload your body with sugar and salt, but this really isn’t healthy. In order to speed up recovery you should maintain a balanced and healthy diet. If you can, use supplements and take multivitamins that are high in vitamin B12, C and D.
5.  Maintain good oral hygiene by using antiseptic mouthwash and follow your surgeon’s instructions. Ensure that you attend all of your follow up appointments and listen to your team’s advice.

I am worried about infection, what should I do?

On leaving hospital you may be given a mouthwash to rinse with to stop infection. You will be encouraged to start brushing your teeth as soon as possible. In the beginning, I found using a soft baby brush was beneficial and Corsodyl mouth wash to ease the ulcers and to stop bacteria. However, it took me several weeks to get to this stage. With the combination of scarring, swelling, bleeding and bands/wires it was nearly impossible to brush my teeth. I was in a huge amount of pain and found opening my mouth wide enough for a syringe was very challenging. To ensure that my internal wounds did not get infected and my mouth was hygienic, I rinsed with medication mouthwash and salt water every 2 hours.

Anytime I drank or ate I would rinse my mouth with water after every mouthful. I was also on a course of antibiotics for 2 weeks after surgery. This was a precaution. With any health issue, please consult your doctor or surgeon if you experience any symptoms or discomfort.

To find out more about brushing your teeth post-surgery, click here. 

Did they remove your wisdom teeth before or during surgery?

Yes I had one of my exposed wisdom teeth removed before surgery. My surgeon made the decision to leave the remaining 3 wisdom teeth in after surgery. Some surgeon’s like to remove all wisdom teeth during surgery to avoid future complications.

To read more about wisdom teeth extraction, please click here.

At what age did you start your corrective treatment?

At the age of 11 I was told I would need corrective jaw surgery. At the age of 12 I started orthodontic treatment on my lower teeth and had 7 teeth removed. It wasn’t until many years later that the main bulk of my treatment began.

To read my story from the beginning, click here.

How long do I have to wait before the swelling goes down?

After surgery it is not uncommon to have swelling on your face and neck area. The swelling should peak by day 3 and then start to slowly decrease as you recover. You may find the swelling and pain is worse in the morning, but should improve throughout the day as you become more mobile and sit upright.

Sometimes you will wake up after surgery with a pressure bandage on your face. The bandage will feel very tight and uncomfortable. However, you will normally only be expected to wear the bandage for the first 24 hours after surgery. It has been found that the pressure bandage is very effective in preventing excessive swelling and bruising.

It would be expected that the worst of the swelling should disappear within 2 weeks. However, it can take up to 6-8 months before your tissue fluid levels return to a stable condition. In my case I had issues with the titanium plates so my swelling lasted a lot longer than most patients. Finally, it is not uncommon to experience “puffy days” after undertaking jaw surgery. Some patients, even 5 years after jaw surgery, still experience the odd “puffy day”. It does not last and you should have nothing to worry about.

To find out more why not check out my “Patient’s Guide to Reducing Swelling”, by clicking here.

Can you feel your face now?

No not fully. A lot of my feeling has come back, but I am still completely numb from my lower lip and teeth down to under my chin. This is on both sides. I do sometimes dribble and I feel very conscious when I go out to eat or drink. Kissing is not the same as before. I am lucky though that the muscles have not been affected and it is purely the numbness. After a few months of training, I was able to eat and drink without the use of a mirror.

After lower jaw surgery it is expected that patients will feel numbness or pins and needles around the chin, lower jaw and lip area. This is completely normal and should only be temporary. In most cases the lower numbness starts to wear off within a couple of weeks. However, sometimes it can take up to 12-18 months for full sensation to return to the area. In a few cases the numbness may become permanent. As the muscles will be unaffected, the numbness should not restrict you from speaking properly or using your lip or lower jaw in the future.

If you are undertaking upper jaw surgery the area of numbness may be larger. With upper jaw surgery it would be expected for the patient to feel numb from the eye area downwards. The numb area can spread down the face and cause numbness in the upper lip, gum and teeth. As with the lower jaw surgery the upper numbness should start to fade between 8-12 weeks and full sensation would be expected within 12-18 months.

To find out more about numbness after surgery , click here. 

How long after surgery did you have to wait before you could talk and eat normally?

For the first 4 days after surgery I could not eat anything. I was having water through a syringe. After day 4 I started to have soup and watered down fruit juice through the syringe. Because of the pain and numbness my mother had to help me. I moved to small plastic cups after 3 weeks.

I had 3-4 weeks of liquid diet and my surgeon gave me the go ahead to move to a soft food diet. All in all it took around 5 months before I was eating a normal diet again.

Download my “Jaw Surgery Survival Kit” to find out more.

Did you go clubbing with your braces? Did you find it harder to talk to guys or feel pretty?

As most of you would have guessed by now I am quite a private person. I rarely open up about my love life or past pursuits. But after speaking with some young ladies recently, I have decided to add their question into my FAQ.

Current society puts a lot of pressure on young people to fit in. If you aren’t pretty enough, skinny enough, muscular enough, or popular enough, you are an outsider, a freak! Yes I know this all too well. Like most children and teenagers growing up I was bullied. My self-image suffered immensely and I still look in the mirror and see the freak staring back at me. Yes, even after all of the operations and being brace free I still don’t like my reflection.

In answer to the first part of the question; Yes I did still go clubbing. I feel like I was probably a little more self-conscious after having my braces and I would be conscious to hide my braces as much as possible. I wore my hair down and ensured that I did not wear big or bright make up or high-necked tops. I wanted to draw attention away from my face as much as possible. Nowadays, even in the short 3 years since my braces, we are seeing a bigger cultural shift. More adults are getting corrective surgery and many more people are investing in braces. More adults than ever are having braces. If you can’t have Invisalign, do not worry. Embrace your brace. You will only have them on for a couple of short years and then you will have perfect teeth forever. It is more than worth it.

In answer to the second part of the question; did I find it harder to talk to guys or feel pretty? Well when I finally got my braces at the age of 19 I already had a boyfriend. He knew I was going to have surgery and also knew that I would need to wear braces for a couple of years. He was ok about the whole thing and never once complained or mentioned them. I was very worried before I had the braces and tried to figure out a way not to have them. Unfortunately, due to the severity of my case there was no other way. I often felt like ugly Betty, but other than a few immature comments, I mostly forgot I had braces. The way I looked did not impact on my ability to study or to complete my job.

To read more about braces click on the links below:

Cleaning your Braces: 
Adult Braces: 
Eating and Drinking with Braces: 
Problems with Braces:
Teeth Whitening Post- Surgery:

After surgery did you have to wear a splint?

After jaw surgery many patients will be fitted with a splint. This is a plastic wafer that sits between the upper and lower teeth. The wafer has small indents which allow for your teeth to sit inside them. The splint helps to stabilise your bite and train your muscles to function with your new jaw position after surgery. After my orthognathic surgery I had to have my splint removed as it was causing excess saliva build up and making me gag. Due to my slight overbite post-surgery I was unable to use the splint and it was removed the next day.

Are you happy you had surgery?

I get asked this question a lot! I am 100% happy I went through with the surgery. Although it has been a tough few years, I am more content now than I have ever been. By going through what I did and by experiencing the setbacks and the pain, I am now able to share my story with you all. Although I still suffer from pain daily, I am in a lot less pain than I was before surgery.

Before surgery I was suicidal. I could not function at all. Life was a living nightmare. Now I am in less pain and have access to the support I need. I have an amazing group of people around me and life has finally started to get back on track. I take strength and courage in the fact I have helped others and will continue to share my journey with you all. Every single follower and reader is so unique and you have all touched and inspired me with your courage and honesty. I hope we can all continue to build on this and help others through these difficult times.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown

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Friday, 2 January 2015

Chiropractor for Face Pain

So as I mentioned previously, I went to see a chiropractor last year to see if this would be an option to reduce my face, head, neck and shoulder pain. After speaking to my massage therapist and a family friend I decided to book myself a consultation.

I suffer from a range of issues and have been trying out different and more natural pain relieving methods over the past 2 years. I must say my pain is less than it was 4 years ago, but nowhere near the level that I would find tolerable. My symptoms include: TMJ pain, trigeminal nerve pain, migraines, muscle spasms and muscle weakness around my jaw and neck. The pain radiates down my arm and sometimes I am unable to grip. I have a very irregular menstrual cycle. I only had 3 periods last year. I have cold hands and feet 90% of the time. I always have a slightly elevated temperature. I have fatigue and muscle weakness in the rest of my body. This feels like having the flu every day of my life. And finally, I suffer from reoccurring sinus infections. 

So one afternoon my mother and I went to the clinic. I was quite nervous as I tried osteopathic treatment in 2013 and it made my pain 50 times worse. I could hardly move the following day. I tried to ease my nerves as I knew this would not help my pain levels.

According to the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), a chiropractor is "concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health". Although some osteopaths and chiropractors operate very similar practices, my understanding is that a chiropractor focuses more on the bones in your spine and an osteopath is more concerned with your muscles and overall body health. Chiropractors employ a wider range of techniques for manipulating the spine, whereas osteopaths employ a wider range of techniques overall.

During the consultation I had to go through my medical history and explain the issues I was having. We then moved on to the manipulation. At first I was asked to stand and sit and bend forward while the chiropractor places small pen marks on my back and neck. The chiropractor I saw was not into clicking and crunching my bones. Instead he moved my legs, arms and neck into weird positions and we had to hold it there for the count of three, while he continued to put pressure on the area. It was really painful to start but as soon as he released me, the pain disappeared. It was very odd indeed. Apparently, my hips were a few centimetres out of place. When I stood up I noticed the difference straight away.

We then focused on my upper spine. Len (the chiropractor) focused on my atlas and axis. These two vertebrae play a crucial role in the functioning of the nervous system. When these are aligned it allows for better body functioning. After my neck was manipulated, I was asked to lie on the bed, while he worked on my head and jaw. He could see I was very wary about letting anyone touch my face so he said we could leave this area. I wanted to see if this treatment would be of benefit to me, so I opted to continue.

We moved on to cranial therapy. Cranial therapy is a gentle hands on treatment that aims to release tension and induce relaxation. Len went on to explain, although we think of the skull as one huge bone in fact it is a complex system of little bones. Much like a jigsaw puzzle! The surrounding soft tissues and scalp should feel like a football to touch. Firm but slightly springy. Apparently, mine was so hard he described it as a bowling ball.  After around 10 minutes of very light touching I could feel the pressure in my head decreasing.

According to Horsley Chiropractic care- “Cranial therapy releases restricted skull joints and their supporting tissues through a painless procedure involving gentle application of focussed pressure. It is a gentle, safe and extremely effective approach and may be used in a wide range of conditions for people of all ages, from birth to old age.”

The consultation took 50 minutes and cost £35. Len was great at explaining exactly what he was doing and why it was important. He believes that my body has gone through a huge shock and that it will just take time to heal itself. He doesn’t believe in the use of pharmaceutical drugs, but can appreciate why people require them. He really seemed to have my best interests at heart and you can tell he does it for the love, not for the money. After leaving the consultation I felt a little better. I definitely saw an improvement in my walk and also experienced a lot less pain in my bottom half of my body. I did not have another crazy migraine for a few weeks. At which point I booked up to see Len again. He advised that I see him when I need to. I did not need much of an adjustment, but he was happy to do cranial work on me.

So in my opinion seeking the help of a good chiropractor may be beneficial for some pain relief. Especially if you suffer from trigeminal neuralgia, TMJ disorder, fibromyalgia or migraines. As always seek a medical opinion (if you have not already) to rule out any other possible reasons for your pain and discomfort. If you recently had jaw surgery, please discuss this with your surgeon before undertaking any treatment or activity.

Happy New Year!

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Before & After Double Jaw Surgery

Before my operation (Atypical TN & TMJ Disorder)

 (latest selfies)
Could have tried to smile.... I know :)
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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a lovely festive period. I cannot believe another year has come to an end and what a year this has been! Like all years there have been ups and downs, some magic moments and some not so nice moments. Here is Jaw & Face’s recap for the year 2014.

In January 2014 my story hit international news. My puffy face was everywhere from London to Paris, to Italy to Peru. The kind words and support I received after my article was amazing. If you have been a long standing reader of my blog you will know why I started this project. For those of you who are new, I started my blog because there was not enough honest information out there for people like us. Surgeons and hospitals have to be very careful what they say to patients. But I don’t, I am a normal person and I can share my case and the possible risks with you.

I felt so alone whilst I was going through surgery. It was horrific. I was underprepared and scared. After my surgery I was mortified. What the hell had I done to myself? I wasn’t myself, I was in so much pain, I was losing hair, not having a period for months at a time, my teeth were weak, I was getting sinus infections, I was pale, I was tired and I hated my new face. On top of that, I had to deal with a number for personal issues. My whole life was crashing and burning around me. They say you find out who your true friends are in your hour of need. But regardless of all the bad stuff that happened, I am thankful to these people. If it wasn’t for them doing that, I would not be writing to you today. I would have never had that push to make this project into something amazing.

I have been asked by a few readers to give my advice or guidance about making their own blog. All I would say is…. Write what you want to read. Write like you are a compassionate friend, somebody who understands what you are going through and offer advice to others who are going through the same. Do not get caught up in making it sound right or worry about your grammar. Your blog should be an honest and open reflection of you.

After my media success in January I was inundated with emails, skype messages and friend requests. These people felt as alone and scared as I did and had finally found somebody who they could talk to about their concerns and who they could really relate to. I was more than happy to help and even started my own mentoring project. I also started to sell my “Jaw Surgery Survival ePacks” and set up a dedicated website. From a few thousand views, my profile rocketed to 1.8m in a matter of months.

In February, I was approached by a couple of modelling agencies who said that they would like to work with me. If you know me well, you will know I am not too much of a girly girl and I definitely do not do well in front of a camera. Lidl and their training videos will be able to prove this! I spoke to a lady called Jan from one of the agencies and she was really friendly and upbeat. I decided to go for a test shoot and asked if I could bring my brother #mrdiva/perfect eyebrows along.

We trekked up to Earls Court one afternoon. I was told, do not wear any makeup and be prepared to send 1-3 hours at the test shoot. A very flamboyant photographer opened the door and threw us into a waiting room with 2 other hopefuls. As we sat in the waiting room we were surrounded by pictures of famous models and people. I could not help but feel out of place and quite ugly with my hair messy and no makeup on. Everybody seemed a bit on edge and everybody was glaring at one another like we were part of the Hunger Games. I felt really uncomfortable. One of the girls came out of the office crying. Gosh what were they going to say about me and my asymmetrical features? Then it was our turn and we had to go into the interview room. The two agents loved our looks and were amazed that we were siblings. They were really complimentary and said some really nice things to me. They loved my brother’s freckles and his fashion. We then went into the studio to have a test shoot to see if we were suitable. I had to do the shoot without any make up! Apparently, I did not have enough attitude and my brother had too much attitude haha. Says it all really!

After the shoot we were accepted almost straight away. However, the agents said that we would have to get a portfolio together. I cannot say this is something I ever want to do or get into, but at least I gave it a go. I realised my self-esteem and confidence is not what it should be and this is something I need to work on. Although I look in the mirror and see a monster staring back, this is not what other people see when they look at me.  So it was a comfort to me.

After working alongside my surgeon and the NHS providing research and mentoring, in June I was approached by the charity “Saving Faces”. The charity is the brainchild of consultant maxillofacial surgeon, Iain Hutchison, who launched Saving Faces in 2000. Over the years Iain and his colleagues came to realise that very little research was being conducted into the treatment of facial diseases such as oral cancer and that many of the facial injuries they saw everyday could be prevented through education. Much like my work, they saw an opportunity to help people and to raise awareness for a very underrepresented area. Saving Faces asked if I could become part of their patient led research group, provide feedback on research proposals and collect much needed patient data.

Which reminds me; if you live in the UK and have undergone Jaw/ Orthognathic Surgery could you please fill in this patient questionnaire? It will take about 5 minutes to complete.

So this year in the summer I also decided to try a chiropractor. My friend’s family use one all of the time and have recommended somebody to me. I was a bit nervous as I did not have a great experience with the osteopath last year. I was really hoping that this would be something that could help me and maybe bring me a bit of relief. I will be writing a separate blog about my experience in January.

In September I met with my Surgeon and Orthodontist to have my annual review. I had an x-ray and had my face and joints examined. They were pleased with my progress and asked again if I would like another surgery “genioplasty” to straighten my chin. My face is extremely asymmetrical and I did not do well with the plates or the swelling last time. I think that my body has gone through enough! The operation would not help my functioning or decrease my pain, so I decided it would not be worth it.

Many young people have this operation because they are deeply unhappy with the way they look. I, more than anybody, can sympathise with this.  I was taunted and bullied throughout my school and working life. I still get called names now. But the nice comments totally out way the bad. I have been seeing a psychologist now for over 2 years and I realise that the reflection on the outside can change as many times as I like but the feelings I have about myself cannot be changed. I often think of Michael Jackson as an example of this. I know some people have this operation and are surrounded by amazing and supportive people. They go on to be confident and outgoing individuals.

However, for some of us, our problems do not really stem from the way we look, but more from the feelings and core beliefs we have of ourselves and the world around us. I would recommend to anybody who is suffering with anxiety, self-esteem issues or depression to seek some psychological help. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I feel like I am more empowered and can take ownership for my life. Before this I felt like it was all out of my hands. I also realise that I am of value and I can go out there. Confidence does not just appear overnight, especially after going through your whole life as a withdrawn and shy person. Confidence must be a conscious choice you make before you leave the house. It takes practice and guts to get out there into the big wide world. Just because you do not do it today does not mean that you won’t ever do it.

I am looking to campaign more in 2015. I feel like it is so important for people to have access to the help and support that they need. I feel passionate about my project and I know that I now have a solid platform to continue to expand and make a difference.

In October this blog was nominated for the National Blog Awards in the Health Category. I was very humbled and grateful. I would like to thank everybody who voted for me and my blog. Your votes have seen me being shortlisted for the final…YAY!. It is now down to an expert judging panel to decide the winner. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony next year. I shall keep you up to date with any news.

October also saw the launch of my new personal business website:

This was just an extension of my virtual office work. I now offer personal assistant services for sole traders and small businesses in and around the London area. It has been received well and I have taken on many new clients. This has been such a great opportunity and it has really helped me to gain confidence in myself and my abilities. After being out of the world of employment for almost 2 years I seriously doubted my experience and abilities. I was not sure if this was going to work. But what did I have to lose? I am so glad I did it and I would not change it for the world. I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to continue to work with some amazing and enterprising people.

Pain Level in 2011: 10
Pain Level 2013: 5/6
Pain Level 2014: 5/6 sometimes 7

Pain levels are stable and mostly controllable. However, I have been experiencing a lot of migraines and optical nerve pain this year. Muscle spasms and muscle strength has not improved. Current pain medications include: co-codamol 30/500mg, ibuprofen 400mg, Amitriptyline 20mg, Sumatriptan Nasal Sprays 20mg and Diazepam 5mg. I am still taking raspberry ketones, green tea extract, multivitamins and fish oil supplements. It really is not ideal and I do worry about the effects these medications are having on my body. I have tried to cut the medications down, but these attempts have been unsuccessful. I have recently started using Sumatriptan and diazepam because my migraines and muscle pain was becoming relentless. I had a crazy migraine on the whole of the right side of my head for 5 days straight. The pain would start at the top of my head; travel down my face and also through my eye to the back of my head. When this happens, the nerve that runs down my right arm fires off and I cannot grip with my right hand. These episodes started to become a weekly occurrence and it was stopping me from functioning at all. I could not read or drive, or do anything, so I decided to try some new pain medications. I am quite sensitive to many medications, so I was very reluctant to try anything new. I have tried muscle relaxants in the past and they had a very negative effect on me.

I am currently waiting for funding to undergo some treatment for CFS. Fingers crossed I get it and it will help with my pain levels. I really want to get off of these heavy medications. I have just finished another group of CBT sessions for depression and I am waiting for my case to be assessed by Professor David Veale. This is in hope, that I will be offered some more long term support.

So in terms of my year’s recap that is all. I wish you all a Happy New Year and I look forward to speaking with you all in 2015. I have more blogs to work on and will continue to keep you informed about the work I am carrying out. As always, feel free to message me if you have any questions and I will be sure to respond to you as soon as I can.

Sending my love and hugs. Enjoy the celebrations.


P.S. Congratulations to my friend Aashbir who got engaged this year. We have been friends since we were 3. I am so happy and proud of you! I cannot believe where life has taken us. You and your family have always been a constant in my life and I am so privileged to be part of your journey. You have been my light in very dark times and for that I am truly grateful. Wishing you and PJ all my love and best wishes for the future.

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Merry Christmas 2014!

Merry Christmas My Jaw-eous Lads and Ladies

Christmas and New Year can be a magical time, but for some people it is a very difficult time. For people who have had the operation and cannot eat, do not worry, those extra calories are no good for you anyway. You can pig out double next year. Winter is finally here in the UK and don’t we know it?! The cold plays absolute havoc with our jaws and I feel especially sorry for those of you who still have your titanium plates and screws. Try to cover up the best you can.

For those of you, like me, who suffer from chronic pain, Christmas can be a very tough time. Being surrounded by family who are happy and healthy can be upsetting. Not because you begrudge them happiness, but because you feel like your happiness is out of reach. There is the added pressure from all of the endless to do lists; cleaning, wrapping, shopping, visiting, cooking, money worries etc. I just about cope with my normal duties!

For those who find it difficult to fit it all in and to do everything they want to, Christmas seems like more of a punishment. Sometimes though you just have to put things into perspective and say ok, well I am not a healthy and fit person, as much as I would like to be, maybe I need to find another way around this? Maybe sacrificing on wrapping and putting everything into gift bags is a better idea? Maybe asking for help with the cooking and cleaning is a better idea than soldiering on? First world problems ay!

Me 6 months after Double Jaw Surgery! First Xmas

I know it is difficult to see the wood through the trees sometimes. Over the past few weeks everything seems to have fallen apart around me. This time last year I lost half of my family and now this year something equally as shocking has happened. It is really upsetting. After going through the different emotions and having time and space to reflect on the situation, I have had some very sobering and humbling thoughts. There are people all over the world who do not even have food or a roof over their head. Not through any fault of their own, but because they were born in a different part of the world. We take so much for granted and some people just cause unnecessary hurt and drama for no reason. Some people are fighting to survive the day.

Life has never been about the material for me. But living in a society where everybody shares their lives has its drawbacks. You may look at people’s lives online and they seem so perfect. You may look at the things they have and be jealous and/or upset. Damn it, so many times I have seen things on Facebook and thought, I wish that were me. But you know what? I speak to a lot of people and what I have come to realise is…. Facebook is a depressive and what you see online is not reality. Most people will not even realise what a negative effect Facebook or other online social sites have on them. But trust me they do. Everybody is trying to soothe their ego and make themselves feel important, in a world where we are all in competition with one another. It is so sad and life really should not be this way. I ask that you be mindful of this the next time you are scrolling through your news feed.

Ok so it is all very well and good for me to say this, but what is the alternative?

Try to surround yourself with positive people and positive things. I like to read inspirational quotes when I am feeling down. I like to look through photos I have taken on my travels. I write down positive affirmations for me to read. I read nice books and watch uplifting and happy films.

Write to do lists and be proactive. Even if you complete one task a day or you managed to make a phone call to your friend, accomplishing a goal or target you set out to achieve will help to lift your mood. Make sure your goals are SMART and that you remain organised throughout the day. Give yourself structured breaks and be kind to yourself. As humans we love to create patterns and stability, so a daily schedule may be helpful over Christmas.

My final message is for everyone, from the Jaw Surgery patients, to people who have long term pain and health conditions, to my friends, family and readers, be compassionate to yourself and your body. You are one of the same. So many people are not able to be compassionate to themselves. I was directed to Paul Gilbert’s work in August of this year. It has been one of the resources I have used to get me through.  You need to create some time for you and to do what you want to do. Spare 30 minutes a day for relaxation; meditation, a hot bath, listen to music, read a book in a quiet room, walk in the park or be outside in nature. Please find below a link to one of Paul Gilbert’s Seminars. I have found his teachings and tasks to be very useful.

After learning to be more compassionate to myself I set up my own Freelance PA & VA service. I am now working for myself and having the time of my life. My confidence is growing and I finally feel like I am back on track.

I do not pretend to have the answers for you, but I do know that you are important too. This is your Christmas and your life. You cannot be superman/woman 100% of the time. If you have recently had surgery please be careful over Christmas. Be mindful of your limitations and what you can manage. You cannot afford to push back your recovery time. Also, please be careful when you go out in these icy conditions.

Sending you and your family my love and best wishes for this festive period. I hope Santa brings you everything you wish for. 

Steffie x.x.x

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Hair Loss After Surgery & The UK Blog Awards

So we are now 3 years post Orthognathic Surgery and 2 years post titanium plate removal. All is not perfect, but it is ok. Jaw & Face is still going strong and I am currently working with King’s College and Saving Faces to conduct research into facial pain conditions and maxillofacial surgery. 

Even more exciting news….

I have been nominated for the UK Blog Awards 2015. I have worked so hard over the past few years and I am so grateful for the opportunity. It would make my year if you could take a second of your time to vote for my blog. 

Now on to more important matters….

Recently, there has been a surge in patients who are noticing their hair falling out after surgery. So this is why I have decided to print a free extract from my “What they don’t tell you about Orthognathic Surgery” eBook. As you are all aware none of the money I raise from my “Jaw Surgery Survival Packs” goes into my personal fund. It is used to maintain the websites and to fund research and data collection for people like us. So if you like what you read than please check out my ePack on the link below. 


As with any type of surgery, orthognathic surgery can have a traumatic effect on your general health and wellbeing. Along with the stress that you may feel before and after the operation, the anaesthetic can make your body go into shock and react in a negative way. This can cause numerous problems from low mood to hair loss. Several weeks post operation my hair became very thin and would alternate from dry and lifeless to greasy and flat. My hair started to fall out in clumps when I washed, brushed or combed it. Hair would fall out onto the floor and on my clothing throughout the day. Thankfully I had long and thick hair prior to surgery so I was able to retain enough to cover my head. 
This was a very stressful time and I went to seek my GP’s advice. My GP ordered for me to have my blood examined and report on my vitamin levels. At the same time as the hair loss I was also very pale and had translucent gums. My dentist had advised that I start to take a multivitamin that included iron. My GP suspected that iron deficiency may be the cause for my excessive hair loss and low energy levels.  When the results returned, it was found that I had post-operative stress related hair loss and that my vitamin levels were normal. I did not have an iron deficiency.

As there was nothing my GP could do for me, I set about resolving this issue myself. After hours of researching I decided to try omega 3,6 and 9 fish oils and took a tablet once a day. At the same time I went to get my dead hair trimmed at the hairdressers and underwent an extensive conditioning regime. I reduced the amount of times I washed my hair per week. Within a couple of weeks I could see improvements and within a few months my hair was growing back and in a much better condition. However, after a couple of months I started to experience more hair loss. I sat at the computer and looked through hours of blogs and forums. But to no avail. I started to look at different supplements and decided to take raspberry ketones and green tea. These are both antioxidants and some people claim they have helped to regulate their hair cycle. 

During a normal cycle of hair growth, your hair will grow and then enters into a resting state. This is called a Telogen period. The hair will eventually shed and new hair will grow in its place. When you undergo surgery your body is rushed into a resting state as the body suffers a huge shock or stress. As all your body’s resources are redirected to help heal the injured area, your body will temporarily shut down new hair production. This means that when your old hair sheds in the usual cycle you do not have any new hair formed to take its place.  As your body recovers and gets back to normal, your hair should start to grow back again.

Steffie’s Tips: It is advised to maintain an iron and protein rich diet as soon as you can. I would also advise that you go to your doctor and ask for a blood test to rule out any other conditions. When my hair started to fall out I limited the amount of times I washed my hair. I also invested in a good quality intensive conditioner and wore my hair up in a bun style.  I used a comb opposed to a hair brush as this is less stressful on your hair. Finally, I still take daily vitamins, fish oil tablets, green tea extract and raspberry ketones. 

If you found this useful, check out the Jaw Surgery Survival ePack: 

And if you have ever read and enjoyed my blog please vote for me. It will only take a second.

Thank you so much guys and girls. If I do not speak to you before, I hope that you and your family have a lovely festive period. 

Steffie x.x.x

Monday, 8 September 2014

How to Whiten your Teeth after Jaw Surgery!

And My 3 Year Anniversary!

Since partaking in research, I have found out so many crazy things about how teeth can become discoloured, especially as we get older. This is not my area of expertise, but I find it very interesting and also beneficial to know about. A lot of medications (antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure pills) can significantly contribute to the discolouration of teeth. Alongside the processed food we eat, teeth discoloration can be caused by the excessive amounts of fluoride we use in our drinking water, toothpaste and other products. 

Patients who have had jaw surgery or any type of trauma to their teeth can also experience significant changes in their teeth and gum health post-surgery. I know after both of my surgeries I had translucent teeth and gums and a receding gum line for quite some time. The trauma can disrupt the formation of tooth enamel and this can be attributed to the pulp of the tooth dying and causing issues from within the centre of the tooth. As your diet gets back to normal and you maintain good oral hygiene, your teeth and gums should repair and become strong again. However, like with all health advice it is best to speak with a healthcare professional.

There are many branches of research that look into the topic of teeth discolouration. I think the first area to look into is the level of yeast/ candida and bacteria in the mouth. If your PH is off and you have a large amount of candida in your system, this can contribute to staining and tooth discolouration. To resolve this issue you may want to cut back on yeast and sugary products. The most obvious of these include; bread, cakes, sweets, candy, grains and corns, ready meals, beer and fizzy drinks. Many people who have a high level of candida find it beneficial to reduce their carbohydrate intake and increase their consumption of anti-bacterial food stuffs, such as; coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon, raw garlic, onions and kale.

In terms of correcting the colour issue, my friend who is a hygienist would recommend seeing a hygienist above a dentist for issues relating to teeth cleaning and whitening. They are much more thorough and can have different equipment to the average dentist. 

A few of my friends are quite obsessed with teeth whitening and have bought several kits from online or visited a dentist for professional whitening. I would never recommend having your teeth bleached, especially within the first 2 years after jaw surgery. Your teeth have undergone serious trauma and the change in diet would have affected your whole body. I know it is frustrating but please be patient and wait for your body and your teeth to completely heal. 

For an alternative to bleaching, some of my friends swear by banana peels to whiten their teeth and they also rub crushed strawberries on to their teeth. Be careful though, as these have lots of sugar and this could cause the enamel erosion to worsen. 

My personal recommendation would be to decrease the amount of fluoride you have (fluoride water and toothpaste). I use Aloe Vera Fluoride Free Whitening Toothpaste by Aloe Dent. My whole family love it. Also I would alternate that with Sensodyne Proenamal whitening toothpaste, as this is great to help strengthen tooth enamel and warn off painful sensitive teeth. Alternatively, you could brush with baking soda and tea tree oil. This is great as it is antibacterial and whitens teeth in a very natural way. 

In addition to this, try to wait 30-60 minutes after food and brush your teeth or chew gum. This will help to balance out your mouth’s PH level and removal harmful bacteria.

You could also try a high vitamin diet, with lots of vitamin c, d and calcium and also take multivitamins and minerals (if you can). If I were to give advice to anybody, I would suggest cutting out as much sugar and yeast from your diet and seeing if that has any effect on the colour and health of your teeth. In addition, you could try cutting back on things like coffee, tea, wine, smoking etc (that is if you do any of those) and drinking most drinks through a straw to save enamel erosion. Overall, in my experience the more alkaline your diet is, the better your teeth health will be. 

Update from me

Ok so now on to other news. It was my 3 year anniversary on 25th August. I wrote a small note up on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thanks to all who wished my face a Happy Faceday, 

Recently, I have been finding it difficult to blog and mentor. I have actually calmed a lot of it down. This is only for the short term. My friend lost her sister a few weeks ago and it really hit home about how short life is. People who know me, know that I run Jaw & Face and this blog because of my love and drive to help others who are going through a bad time. Be it personal, medical and psychologically. People who know me, also know I have a crazy family and a very eclectic group of friends who I love and adore. However, sometimes I seem to neglect myself in the quest of helping others. Since my life broke down a few years ago, I lost myself. The blog was the first big step I took in dealing with all the past hurt and trauma and channelling my energy into something positive and uplifting. I feel like now I am coming to terms with my limitations. After partaking in CBT I am able to reflect more on myself and be compassionate to myself. For so long I have focused outwards by helping others to be happy because I did not believe I could be happy or that I truly deserved happiness. But I feel like now it is time for me and to find out what makes me happy. Find out what I like, what I enjoy, have some creative hobbies. I am really trying to stop looking back at the past and what happened there, what I cannot do and learn to live a new way, without fear and what ifs. I am unique, as are you all, our stories are unique and we all deserve happiness. Every single person is beautiful and in time you will all see how perfect you really are. 

I am still going to be around and I will still be running Jaw & Face, selling the e-packs for charity and answering and supporting you all. But it may take me a little more time than usual. 
Stay Jaw-geous 

Sending my love and hugs always


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