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.

  photo 2

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.


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.

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 4.16.59 PM


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

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 4.20.06 PM

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.


34 thoughts on “Surgery Follow-up: 100% Relapse, 100% Sad

  1. I have been following your ‘saga’ and it’s quite a story.
    I feel shocked to read your last entry this afternoon. It’s taken a few hours to gather my thoughts.
    I think the thing that strikes me most about you is that you have SUCH a personality. You are great! Fullstop.
    You are way beyond your smile and your teeth.
    What you choose to do from this point is your business.(regarding your appearance)
    But if you feel stuck, just write! Your blog is so entertaining, and informative.
    By the way, you show your happiness through your smile so much. It lights up the photos, I’m talking about before Invisalign as well. You are absolutely gorgeous! It’s from within.
    Wishing you all the best!

    • Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Emma. What you’ve written to me – a complete stranger – is probably one of the most genuinely nicest things someone who “doesn’t know me from Adam” has ever said. It truly made my day.

  2. I was reading through your blog as I enter my third tray of invisalign. All of your posts are fun, humorous, and extremely informative– I’m so thankful for the information. I write this as I am griding my teeth in pain, having just had 15 attachements added yesterday before being given tray 3 of 28.

    I just wanted to quickly comment on your picture you posted above and let you know the scar is NOT noticable if you do not know what you’re looking for. When you look in the mirror at yourself, you zone in on your small imperfections because you know your face better than anyone else ever could. As someone who has only seen a few pictures of you, I really didn’t even know what scar you were referring too- maybe that will help the confidence a little.

    Then again– this post of yours was almost 6 months ago– so maybe things have significantly improved since then.

    Best of luck and would love to see more posts as you decide next steps.

    • You know, you’re right about the whole ‘i know my face best’ thing. This is exactly what I tell myself when I start to become self conscious about it. It’s still there, red as ever and I’m still trying to accept it. One day soon I hope! By the way, thank you so much for taking the time to write that. It means a lot ❤

  3. Hi! I am at the end of my Invisalign treatment and will begin refinements in a couple of weeks and I have been so frustrated by most of the process – especially when it came to communicating with my ortho. Your blog is great – really helpful to read. I am sorry for all the issues you had to go to to attain your smile goal. You really do have such a beautiful smile! I hope you are smiling and laughing a lot and not worrying about it. I also couldn’t really see the scar, but I totally understand how annoying that must be for you.

    Anyway, just wanted to say your blog had encouraged me to ask more questions – there were many times I went against my gut because my ortho is always running from one patient to the other and I don’t feel like I get the chance to really ask her anything. As a paying customer, we have the right to ask a lot of questions – and they are not always right so it’s a blend of researching, communicating, and trusting the provider. Your blog is in my “research” category so thanks and wish you the best!

    • I have a restaurant and I respect your quest for knowledge. Can you kindly let me know, how many millions of questions should you ask me as a part of your right? Maybe whole day or whole year around? Is it a mistake or crime that I have opened up a restaurant and you are paying me for a service I am providing.

      • Hi Saikat, thank you for commenting. You may not know this by reading my blog but I too am a business owner. Fortunately I live in a capitalistic society where businesses thrive (or die) for many reasons, a giant one being good customer service.

        Here is a hypothetical scenario:

        Jim Jones calls me up and says he is a realtor and has a new listing that he needs photographed right away. He’s never hired a professional photographer to shoot one of his properties before but he wants to impress these particular clients so he’s shopping around for the best real estate photographer in town… and by best, I mean best bang for his buck, ie. cost, time-frame, quantity, quality, etc. Jim Jones has a lot of questions! He begins to ask away. I get slightly annoyed but continue answering because I know I have competition and he could definitely take his business elsewhere, and then where would that leave me?

        You say you own a restaurant. I can’t imagine it is operating a top performance if your general attitude is what you imply in your comment: The customer should be seen and not heard. Let’s take it a step further. Could you imagine if your food was permanently altering your customers’ bone structure?

        In regards to your question, I might walk into your restaurant but if you snobbishly refused to answer my questions, I’d turn around, walk out your door, and head on over to your competition’s restaurant. And then I’d tell all my friends.

  4. Hello there. I don’t know how I found your page. I know it has something to do with invisalign (I’m nearing the end of my first tray). I don’t read blogs for entertainment, I read them for their personal experience on a particular subject which were my intentions when I came to yours. However I read every post you’ve made in a day simply because you are an extremely likeable and real person. You’re relatable and it’s refreshing. I understand that your smile is an insecurity and me saying “that’s so silly because you’re beautiful as you are” won’t change that. I have my own insecurities too so I understand. But I do want to say that the reader who told you you were vain is a dick. And you must wonder what made them read your blog anyways if they think that. Maybe they were jealous that you have the balls to take an insecurity and try to change it.
    Idk. Either way I wanted you to know that you are clearly an awesome person and I can’t believe I just read your entire blog. That NEVER happens. Thank you for being you. 🙂

    • Hi Aubrie,
      I’m sad that I’m only just now reading this. I hope this message gets to you because I want you to know how grateful I am for strangers like you. What you’ve written means a lot to me… thank you so very much. ❤

  5. I’m sorry to hear of your relapse. I haven’t read your blog for a while but as I am nearing the end of my Invisilign journey I was just revisiting some of the sites I was an avid reader of as I started almost one year ago. I too have a very gummy smile and I was hoping the Invisilign was going to be able to intrude my top teeth, but despite my dentists best efforts it hasn’t. I use Botox to relax my top lip and this does the trick really well although I was hoping for a more permanent solution.

  6. Great blog. I stumbled upon it looking for information about Invisalign. Your teeth look great! And about your surgery relapse: I cannot see the scar. Your smile is gorgeous, gorgeous. By the way, you may be interested to know that in face reading (an ancient practice), outer face data relates to inner characteristics, and a gummy smile signals a very giving, generous person (likely to a fault). Perhaps the surgery relapse is because you were trying to contradict a major soul pattern and/or because there are related lessons for you to learn and master on the inside first. Rose Rosetree, a professional face reader/aura reader, covers these sorts of topics in her face reading books. I hope you will not be so hard on yourself, as I suspect you would not be so apt to see this as a “flaw” in someone else. Good luck ❤

  7. I just read this post, after reading and commenting on your previous posts about your lip repositioning. I did not know it was possible to have the surgery not work. I am now kind of freaked out. Your blog was the only thing I could find online about someone actually having the surgery and showing pictures. I have also heard that Botox works but only for a few months and then you slowly go back to normal. So sorry to hear of your bad outcome. I would try again and find another perio to do it again. Good luck, and you do have a lovely smile and laughter is totally contagious.. It is not vain and I have been getting a lot of flack from people in my life as well for elective surgery like this… But if it makes you feel better…

    • Thanks Stephanie, it really gives me a boost when I read comments like yours. Really, the whole reason I started this blog is because I couldn’t find anything worth while about what I was (or would be) going through. I hope you take your friends’ opinions about your elective surgery with a grain of salt. Until they know what it’s like to not smile freely with confidence, they will truly never know. Although it was over a year ago, I remember specifically limiting the people whom I told and even then, like you, they gave me hell about it! …of course as they laughed with a perfect tooth to gum ratio. Thank you for reading!

  8. I’m a content writer and doing some research on Invisalign for an article and I happened onto your blog. I just wanted to say that I thoroughly agree with Emma’s comment back in March…your smile is beautiful-in ALL of the pictures. It has so much light and happiness that exudes from it. I totally understand the insecurities we can feel about ourselves, but I just wanted you to know that from a complete stranger’s perspective, if I were to see your smile in person, I’m pretty sure it would light up my day. Keep smiling!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story. For some backstory on mine — I had no idea I had what’s called a “gummy smile” until grad school, when my grad school’s dentist told me he could “fix me” and my “problem smile.” It was like Eve after the apple… since then I’ve lost a ton of confidence, and have been considering cosmetic dentistry. The more I research lip repositioning, though, and the more I see before/after pics, the more one thing becomes clear — the BEFORE smiles are the most gorgeous — they look free, natural, and lovely. You shine in your pictures! Honestly, seeing your smile brought a smile to my face. Please keep smiling 🙂

    • And judging by your picture, there isn’t a thing wrong with yours. You are beautiful! I’ve finally gotten around to reading and replying to comments… I am so sorry it has taken me this long to write. Thank you so very much for your compliment. 😉

  10. Read your entire blog in one sitting, currently on invisalign myself (tray 20 of 29) and will likely need refinements due to developing a posterior open bite on invisalign. Just wanted to say your blog has been super helpful.
    I got somewhat indignant reading that someone had the nerve to insinuate that you are shallow or vain for wanting to fix your smile. FYI, I think you are absolutely gorgeous even in your before photos. I wouldn’t have looked at you and thought, wow she has a gummy smile, but I think everyone has insecurities about their appearance and we tend to be harder on ourselves. In any case, what you do is absolutely nobody else’s business but your own.
    I hope you find a fix and please do update your blog if you do, everyone loves a happy ending.
    One last thing, I think your ortho did an amazing job and your teeth really do look perfect. Mine aren’t going to look anywhere as pretty as yours but I’m still happy with the improvements I’ve seen so far.
    Take care.

    • After months of ignoring my blog, I’m finally now checking my comments… and I am so very sorry if you ever thought that I intentionally ignored you. It is beyond flattering that you would read my entire blog, much less in one sitting so thank you for that! I really do need to post an update. I have a bit to write about but I feel like I just don’t have the time nor do I feel like stirring up old feelings (mainly of disappointment). Anyway, reading this has brightened my day!

  11. How is it going now? We haven’t heard from you since this last post. Are you happier with your smile? When I was first starting out with my Invisalign journey I read your blog and it felt great to know that people like you grinned and bore it to the completion. I was sorry to read about your issues with the gums, but hopefully you’ve found someone else to try and help or are happier with the results now.

  12. I first want to say that looking at these pictures I don’t see a scar at all. I was really looking too! But it just looks like a woman smiling, idk. I think you have a nice smile. I just started my own invisalign journey and I too have a “gummy” smile. My ortho suggested that I could get some kind of jaw surgery where they cut a few inches or centimetres off and connect it with really really small plates. You might have heard of it and I’m not explaining it the best way haha but it seems like a simple, although expensive, procedure and i think it’s what the actress Jennifer Garner got because she used to have a gummy smile back in the day. For me, I passed on it. I’ve had this smile all my life so I’m neither here nor there about it, but I’m very indifferent towards most things in general…I’m only getting my teeth fixed because my bite is interfering with my day to day.

  13. Hey there! Im sorry to hear about the relapse:( You are so beautiful though even before you’ve had any work. Your inner beauty really shows through your blog. I have a question aboit before the relapse though. Did the surgery actually move your lip downward a little? I mean did your upper lip feel different on your mouth? I had jaw surgery a couple years ago, bit I still have a little strain keeping my lips closed. Im just looking into other options to help out my problem. I think some of the problem has to do with my lack of being able to breath well through my nose, but I really dont feel like going through another big surgery

    • I’m so sorry I’m just getting around to reading this! First, thank you… knowing that kind people like you read my blog (and take the time to comment) means a lot to me. To answer your question, the “successful” part of my recovery was short-lived so there isn’t much time for me to refer to when thinking back. Yes, my lip was definitely lower and it definitely felt different. Kind of tight, but in a really good way. The best word to describe the feeling would be “safe”. It felt safe to smile freely and when I did, I could feel some tautness which I really liked. How was the recovery for your jaw surgery?

  14. Thank you so much for your detailed blog. I am saddened by the result, but it helped my decision not to do the procedure as well, I never thought it could relapse that quickly. I was contemplating doing it overseas, but was nervous with my surgeon. Not sure if I want to do gummy lift.. I am scared!!

    I’ve done the Botox before but it made my face look really weird, the Botox worked “too well” on my face, so I would just need 1/4 of a unit on each side – which then takes 2months to relapse again. It’s usually too little and the beautician would be quite reluctant to do me as I won’t make much money to them.

    I think the usual amount is 2 units per side and that took 6m for my face to look normal again.

    Please keep us posted with what you decide to do as an alternative for your gummy smile, I totally understand how you feel. No one notices the same imperfections, but to me, I will always cover my mouth when I laugh as I hate it!

    • I guess my only suggestion would be to kindly demand their before and after portfolio. If they can’t provide one, keep searching. They may be awesome at other corners in their field (and awesome at “gum lifts” too) but if they can’t show you that they can actually do what they say they can do, it might be best to find someone who can. Trust me, they’re out there. Thank you so much for reading!

  15. I just came across your blog as I was looking into the lip repositioning surgery and I just had to comment. I’m heartbroken for more than one reason; the first being that I completely understand your struggle and can’t imagine losing how happy you were about your smile and the second one being (selfishly) that I had hope I could find a not so invasive procedure to fix my smile so now I’m back to where I started, hopeless. As much as I hate my smile, I could never do the whole sawing my jaw bone off thing. Anyway, you are absolutely beautiful and have an awesome personality. There is nothing vain at all about wanting to have a nice smile. People who don’t understand are usually inconsiderate ass hats who have great teeth and a normal gum to tooth ratio. Screw them. My lip comes up just as high as yours but unfortunately, I have small teeth and could never afford veneers. I can’t whiten my dingy teeth because one of them is fake so I’ll always be the one smiling with my mouth closed and covering my mouth every time I burst out in laughter-which happens often. Most people can’t understand how embarrassing that is or ugly it can make a person feel. I can only dream of taking a picture without hesitation or smiling with confidence. I guess that makes me vain too but whatever. Thank you for writing this and not holding back. It really did help.

  16. Hi! I actually just got the procedure done, and I am just now seeing your blog. Like everyone’s said, you’ve got a beautiful natural smile :). I’m sorry to hear you had a relapse, and now I’m a little worried the same could happen to me. It’s been 6 days and my upper lip is definitely tight and swollen still. I’m nervous because I have surgical dressing around the stitches that hardens to keep things in place, so I can’t see what my smile might look like yet (as my upper lip is near immobile due to the putty like stuff covering the stitches). Did you have dressing covering your stitches as well? And did the doctor give reasons as to why the relapse may have happened specifically? Maybe the lack of antibiotics or the strenuous activities you did shortly after the procedure? Maybe the stitches were pulled loose from smiling or laughing? Looking forward to your response!

  17. Hi! My name is Katie and I came upon your blog while researching about crown lengthening. If you get the chance to read this I just thought you should know how ENVIOUS I am of your smile. You have beautiful white, straight, nicely shaped teeth. However, I can’t believe how genuinely I can relate to your story. It appears that I am a perfect candidate for that “lets cut your jaw/ re-align it to lift your maxilla and improve your gummy smile” surgery.. but much like you that will NEVER be an option for me (lol)! I paid for my own braces when I was 18 years old (I am now 25) to correct my crooked teeth. I am very pleased with the results- however my gums are still much larger than my teeth and a huge insecurity of mine. I refuse to take pictures, and if you just so happen to find me in one- I am not smiling. I met with a periodontist last year to go over my options and was turned off by his approach and “dry” personality. I just recently met with a cosmetic dentist who came highly recommended to me by a friend, and it was a much more pleasant visit than my encounter with the previous periodontist. This Dr. suggested crown lengthening with lip re-positioning (just like you!). She said we will start with a molding and wax mold which right there alone cost’s 1,500$. The wax mold gives me the opportunity to see what my smile will look like after the procedure before actually getting the procedure, which is comforting considering the procedure will cost anywhere from $1,000-$4,000. She also informed me that the lip repositioning is a small loosening of the muscle tissue to relax the upper lip. So i’m not sure if that is exactly what you had done as well.

    I guess my reasoning for reaching out was for some advice as I move forward with this investment. To me- this would be a life changing procedure and to hear that it was ALMOST the same for you, but failed, saddens me. I guess relapse is always a possibility but my dentist and I never discussed that.

    I hope you have found some sort of peace with your smile and image and I wish you the best! You are SO not alone. I live with the same insecurity and feelings and I am seeking relief and happiness.

  18. your blog is fantastic! so well written with an infectious personality! I checked out the photos and all I noticed was that you are as beautiful as your writing. thousands would swap with you in a heartbeat. keep writing and keep smiling 🙂

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