Surgery Follow-up: 100% Relapse, 100% Sad

I apologize for disappearing, it’s just that I really owed myself some time away from thinking about the state of my mouth in general. I really just had to put things on the back burner for a while. But the time has come and now I’d like to write about the outcome of what could have been my “life-changing” procedure. As the title to this blog post suggests, my surgery didn’t have the fairytale ending that I was expecting (seems to be a theme, no?). Big picture, things could be worse and part of me feels guilty for complaining about such things that others might consider incredibly petty. But you know what? Screw that. Everything can always be worse. You got your arm bit off by the alligator at the zoo? That’s shitty but so did Bob, only the ambulance never came so he bled out and died.

Carrying on from when I’d last written, the recovery -as far as pain goes- was all uphill from there. After about 10 days, I could really see my new smile and I was ELATED. Like, on a scale of 1 to 10, I was on level rockstar! The sense of freedom that I was experiencing was so new to me. I actually cried tears of happiness one morning after brushing my teeth. So this is what smiling should feel like! I know it sounds kind of pathetic but after all those years of holding back laughter or breaking eye contact with someone after realizing I was smiling too big, things were different now. In general, I’ve always considered myself to be a confident person despite my “flaw”. I know my friends like me for who I am and not for my smile. Cliche, yes, but really I felt like a new person… a prettier, more confident person. Having both of these surgeries was liberating in so many ways. After all this time, I was genuinely happy with my smile which is something I thought would never happen. Really, I was.

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At exactly three weeks post op, I went in and saw my dentist for suture removal. Thank god because the monofil was getting disgusting and my mouth smelling like the damn rodeo was getting old. I guess stitches will do that.

Dr. P. has been my dentist since I was a kid, and as usual was very happy to see me after I’d been out of state for so long. He acted surprised that I had gone through such a cosmetic surgery… yet at the same time, not so surprised. After all, he did perform my first gingivectomy back in 1993; he knew how unhappy I was with my smile even when I was in third grade!

I requested that he use some numbing gel before he pulled out the remaining stitches, which he did, and I was thankful because things were still slightly tender in spots. When he was finished, he examined my incision line and made a comment that was a little bit alarming:”If you want, I can fix that so it looks a little better… but only when you’re ready.” Those were not his exact words but what he said led me to believe that something wasn’t quite right. Until that point I hadn’t yet looked at the scar, believe it or not. He asked if I’d been given any antibiotics after the surgery. I said no, so he went to his office and brought me back a bottle of Peridex which is an oral anti bacterial rinse. Better late than never I guess, right?

Another week went by and I began to notice that my lip wasn’t feeling nearly as tight as it had been in the previous weeks (yes, the surgery made the inside of my lip feel tight but it was never uncomfortable). In just one month, my dream smile vanished into nothing but a memory. I was right back to square one except my new smile displayed a red, jagged scar. I just can’t win, can I?

Part of the deal between my periodontist and I was that, since I was moving (and also that I’m a photographer), I’d send him some clear “after” photos at six weeks which would normally be his followup appointment time. Of course I was half a country away so we decided that pictures would have to suffice. Leading up to the six week mark, I went through a lot of emotions- mainly, and not surprisingly, sadness. I now belonged to the botched plastic surgery club. Another statistic.

About nine weeks had passed and I decided I couldn’t put the pictures off any longer. I set up my camera on the tripod and took some really embarrassing photos. I was mostly interested in writing him an email to ask wtf happened. I was literally promised that my scar would never show “because of the incision location”.

If you’ve read any of my past posts about my nightmarish experiences with my orthodontist, you might guess that I’d come out of that situation with the knowledge to ask questions… ask tons of questions! And I did! One of them happened to be, “I’ve read about relapse where someone’s scar was visible afterward. Will my scar show?”. “Absolutely not.” was his direct answer. He explained that his incision would be too far up which led me to believe he was absolutely sure.

Throughout my blog, I talk about certain aspects of my smile that are embarrassing but I’ve never actually posted a “real” picture of me laughing (Rightfully so. Who wants people seeing them in their worst light, right?). I got an email the other day from a reader who indirectly called me shallow for all that I’ve put myself through in my quest for a prettier smile. Sometimes I wonder if people who read this think I’m a vain nutjob. Well, the reader that day verified that at least one person does.

I’d like people who read this blog to know that there is good reason for me to have felt the desire to better my smile. The first picture below was a few weeks after my crown lengthening procedure and several before the botched one. My husband was on a business trip for six weeks so we FaceTimed each other… on this particular call, I was taking screenshots of him making faces. I didn’t see my part of the picture until afterward… I was mortified. I captured a picture of what I try to cover up every single time I laugh at something! I love that I can be myself around my husband. I let my guard down and occasionally laugh without thinking about my gums showing. After I saw this photo, I thought: “Thank GOD I’m having my surgery soon! No more worries!” Ha.

smile

Well, here is my controlled smile today. And by controlled, I mean that I use my muscles to keep my lip from raising the best I can. Sometimes I can do better.

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Here is a semi-controlled laugh. My scar is the first thing I see.

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So there. That’s my laugh face.

I sent my periodontist the email. There was nothing mean about it because I’m not necessarily mad at him. I read about relapse (though he denied it was much of a possibility at all). Something happened to make this surgery fail and I wanted to know what it was. His response was a simple one, but there was no mistaking his tone; I knew he felt terrible.

“…I am really at a loss to explain why the relapse was so great. The scar should significantly improve over time. […] I would certainly be willing to attempt it again if and when you make it back to this side of the world.[…]”

I’m just not sure what to do now. I have zero desire to have my face re-worked on by someone who’s already failed once, so that’s out of the question. Maybe he didn’t actually fail and it was just me. Maybe I wasn’t a good candidate for this surgery in the first place. Hopefully some day I’ll find a solution for this scar though. It’s pretty embarrassing.

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