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Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Underbite Experience. (Pre-Surgery)

Hi everyone! I can't believe the time has come for me to write this and share my underbite experience with you all. Most of you know that I'm heading in for surgery this Tuesday (5th March), to correct my underbite and crooked, lower jaw. It's something I've had for my whole teenage life and to say it's been a burden, is an understatement. The physical, emotional and mental pain and suffering you go through from having a disfigurement - especially a facial disfigurement - is unexplainable. It's not something you can cover up or hide with makeup, it's there for everyone to see and judge. No blog post or video would be able to get my experience across entirely, it'd be impossible. My experience may differ to other peoples', but I thought that sharing mine would help and inform others. Reading blog posts and watching videos about underbites and the corrective surgery have helped me more than anything during this process. I explain everything in a video embedded at the bottom of this post also, showing you guys my underbite at various angles and explaining experiences etc.
When I was around 7-8, my teeth started overcrowding in my mouth and my bite changed for the first time. A "normal" bite means that the top jaw sits in front of the bottom jaw; my bite as a child met in the middle. When I got braces on to correct my extreme overcrowding at the age of 11, we were warned that there was a possibility of an underbite occurring during my teens. Also, I had an expander on my top jaw; it was expanding my smaller top jaw, and again, there was a possibility an underbite could occur from that correction. Obviously, that's what happened! My orthodontist started to notice the underbite developing when I was around 14, and it became most noticeable to everyone (and myself) when I just turned 15. My lower teeth and jaw started to protrude in front of my top jaw more and more by the month. During this time, I was unfortunately getting bullied outside and inside of school, as well as online. To say my confidence plummeted, would be an understatement! I got my braces off for around a year when I was 16, but had them back on when I was 17 to prepare for the surgery. My underbite became worse over the last few years of school, particularly in my last year.
My bottom teeth started to grow out an angle when I was 17, which made my bottom lip and underbite look even worse than before. I walked around with my head buried in a scarf for over a year, out of shame and pure embarrassment. I had people comment on it in the street and everything. I think people forget to empathise at times; if they see something "different" about someone, the odd few will instantly pass a remark or insult you, forgetting the fact that you're most definitely aware of your "difference" yourself and are likely to be unhappy over it. To correct my lower teeth, I went in for my first surgery in October 2011 in St James' Hospital. I had all my wisdom teeth removed, along with my two lower incisors - this would create space for my orthodontist to spread my teeth out and correct the teeth growing at the almost-horizontal angle. I was put under general anesthetic for the surgery, and was let out that evening and given a heavy dose of painkillers. Usually surgeons can predict how an underbite correcting surgery will go, by seeing how a wisdom teeth removal surgery went. Unfortunately, my recovery process was tough so we're expecting my recovery for the surgery on Tuesday to be a tough one - hopefully that won't be the case.
Just to my luck, a further complication arose; instead of all of my teeth moving into the two new spaces created at the front of my lower teeth, my teeth all moved into one of the space. I was left with multiple gaps scattered around the right-hand side of my mouth. Again, my confidence was knocked, I had gaps and spaces all over my lower jaw and I began to cover my mouth anytime I talked to someone to hide them. Because of the severity of my underbite and teeth positioning, it started to affect my speech and eating. I developed a lisp, and also couldn't pronounce a lot of words due to positioning of my teeth. I wasn't able to bite or chew food properly, so I had to start cutting and chopping food into smaller pieces to aid my digestion. The process as a whole was held back around 6-8 months because of this, and it took ages for my teeth to eventually move into the correct places and for the gaps to close up. Because of the moving of the teeth, my midline was disrupted. Your midline is where the gap between your two front teeth, meets up directly with the gap between your lower front teeth. Currently, my lower front teeth are off by 3mm to my right - something that will be corrected on Tuesday, as well as the underbite. 


My underbite was at its worst in 2011 and early 2012, as you can see in the photos above. You can see the shadow and push my bottom teeth and braces left, under my lower lip. (If you watch some of my Youtube videos from around that time, it will give you a better idea also.) I started to find ways of "hiding" my underbite - avoiding certain poses and angles in photographs, for example. I always noticed my underbite in candid photos more than anything - photos people had taken, without me knowing. Over time, it has improved but there's still a significant gap. 
The surgery on Tuesday, will be double jaw surgery; some people only need one jaw repositioned, but in my case it will be the two. The surgeons are moving my top jaw forward by 1mm, and my bottom jaw back by 2mm. I've been going for consultations in St James' Hospital for the last two years, as we had to wait for the right time to operate. I only stopped growing officially last year - there's no point in having the surgery before you've stopped developing, as your underbite could just re-grow. You have a choice whether or not to go through with the surgery, I didn't think twice about it for a second and said 'yes' right away. It's an orthodontic procedure, not a cosmetic one. Saying "Oh sure you don't even need it!" to people will only irritate them; if they didn't need it, they wouldn't be going through with it -trust me. It's hard to understand what it's like to go through this and live with something like this, it's almost impossible to put it into words.
The surgery itself is extremely severe, as you can imagine; both jaws will broken, and screws will be placed all around both jaws in the new positions. I'll be checking into the hospital on Tuesday morning, and will be having the surgery that day. I'll be in hospital for around 4-5 days in total. Obviously, I'll talk more in-depth about the recovery, after the surgery but for now I'll describe it briefly. Both of my jaws will be wired shut for approximately 6-8 weeks. I had surgical hooks put on my brace wires last week, where the elastics will be looped through to wire my jaws shut temporarily. This is for my jaw bones to heal in the new positions. I won't be able to eat solids for months (usually 3/4 months, but this depends on the individual). All of my food will have to be liquidised. Over the last few months, I've had to get moulds, x-rays and a splint fitted for the operation. The splint measures where your jaws line up with your eyes, nose, ears etc. It's all very simple and painless. 
It's been an absolutely horrific experience to go through; I'm not going to sugar-coat it. I've developed Body Dysmorphic Disorder and depression because of it, as well feeling suicidal at various times in my life. It can feel like the whole world is going against you when you develop something like this - why me!? Why me out of everyone!? I've asked myself this everyday for the last 5 years. It's something that I think about 24-7, crying myself to sleep because of it is nothing new. You become your own worst enemy during an experience like this; I ended up absolutely despising myself and feeling like life wasn't worth living because of how I looked. I've been slagged by "friends", acquaintances, randoms, people online - you name it. "Jaws", "Bulldog", "Leanne Pugfull" - I've heard it all! However, I've built up an incredibly thick skin and sense of empathy because of it. I feel sorry for anyone who feels the need to put an individual down, because of something that's different about them and for something they can't help. It's pure evil. If you're going through this, or something similar - find your true friends, and keep them close. They'll be your backbone during this experience. 
You're in constant discomfort and pain with the braces and various procedures you have to have done, it's mentally tiring and draining but you just have to keep chugging on. I'll live with the experience until the day I die, and no doubt it has changed me for life. For all of you who have encouraged me, stuck up for me and have been sweet to me over the years - THANK YOU. I mean it when I say that the support I have received over the years from blog readers and video viewers alike, has been so powerful and helpful. 
I'm excited to share this journey with you, and I hope it helps and informs others. I'm 95% having my surgery on Tuesday (there's always a possibility of it being postponed, if *touch wood* a car accident occurs, for example, and someone needs an emergency operation). I'm heading in tomorrow (Monday) to have my splint fitted for the last time, and to make sure everything's ok for the next day. The nerves are kicking in, but I'm terribly excited for everything to be over and done with - at last. All I want in life is to not look in the mirror and feel the need to cry. I'm sick of looking at the ground when I walk down a street, and feeling inferior to others because of the way I look. I feel like my life is just beginning, to be honest. I highly suggest watching the video below, as I talk about and explain everything in detail. I also show you more angles of my underbite, and the currents gaps I have.