Day 60: Phantom Drooling

  • Pain: 0/10
  • Inconvenience: 2/10

Guess whose teeth are touching… sorta!

Have you ever heard of phantom limbs? When someone has a limb amputated, they will often attempt to use it ever after it’s gone because their brain has not yet registered its absence. You may also experience this strange phenomenon if you sleep on your arm all night long, thereby cutting the circulation off. There have been many times when I’ve awoken and attempted to turn my alarm off. After a few frustrating seconds, I’ll look down and realize that, despite having felt my arm move to the clock, it really hasn’t moved at all.

With that as my preface, I believe I’ve discovered a new sibling in the phantom family: phantom drooling. Almost every single time I’m taking a drink, I can feel drops of liquid running down my shirt and landing on my pants. When I look down, however, I haven’t spilled anything at all. I guess I’m so used to being sloppy that my brain is expecting me to make a mess.

The left side of my chin has started sending sudden jolts of pain through my jaw. It’s extremely annoying, but it means my nerves are reawakening from their brief coma.

I woke up today and noticed that all of the teeth on the right side of my mouth were touching except for my rearmost molar! I could open and close my mouth and hear the sound of my teeth clacking together. That euphonic sound disappeared about an hour into my morning, unfortunately. I recall my surgeon telling me that, when a person is asleep, the receptors in their teeth stop working. This means that I bite down with full force while sleeping because I’m not afraid of shaving my teeth down or hitting my braces. In conclusion, the reason I can’t bite is because I’m a giant wuss.

I’ve been told by both my surgeon and my orthodontist that teeth naturally grow until they hit a barrier, which is usually your other teeth. Since my bite is open, my molars should migrate out until they touch again, simply because “it’s in their nature”. I’ve never heard of this behavior before, but I’m choosing to accept it on faith alone.

Lastly, let us all note that I am now 2/3 of the way to a fully reconstructed jaw. I remember being told that if I were to get punched in the face after 90 days, it would be just like if it were to happen before surgery because my bone would be back to its full strength. I know what you’re about to say: “Want to test that out, Graham?” No. That wasn’t funny the first time I heard it and it’s not funny now.

22 Comments

  1. Hello Graham,
    Thanks for your inspiration. I would like to start my own blog to carry on the inspiration!
    I am at the end of week one, (both jaws) and I just wanted to know when drooling stopped for you. I’m drooling everywhere!

    • Michael, glad you’re finding my past rants helpful! I recall drooling being a frustration for about the first month of recovery, so you may have a few more weeks of dealing with it yet. Hang in there and this will be over soon! 😊

  2. Hi Graham!

    I’m on day 60 currently, and the op left me in a similar situation as you – my right molars touch but I’m left with quite a severe open bite on the left. Now I can only chew with one side of my mouth, which got me a little worried.

    May I know if that resolved over time with orthodontics for you , or you simply got used to it?

    • Nicholas, my bite close completely on one side and is open by approximately 1mm on the other side. This happened during an 18-month period following surgery for me. I am able to chew properly on both sides of my mouth, and like my numb spots, I don’t even realize I have a slight open bite unless someone asks about it. So be encouraged: your bite should close over time, but it may take a year or more to happen. 😊

  3. Just about at this point now; the phantom drooling is the worst lol. I notice it’s a matter of eating/drinking anything cold for me, and for some reason when cold anything gets between my bottom teeth and lip, it feels like I have streams of wet/cold water dribbling down my chin.

    I have to respectfully disagree with the ‘naturally growing out to meet resistance’ thing, since if that were the case I would have never needed this surgery. :p

    I’m back to eating and chewing real food now; I have to cut some stuff into small pieces since I’m still trying to figure out how to work with front teeth that actually overlap, but otherwise I’ve got the chewing down. Still have some aches/crunchiness now and then in my TMJs but it’s been a little better this week so hopefully I’ve seen the last of that. My surgeon and orthodontist can’t seem to agree on whether I should be wearing bands 24/7 or just at night, though…

  4. Hi Graham!

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this journal. I had a double jaw surgery last january and reading your blog has helped me a lot before and after the surgery! Thanks to you, I was able to ask my doctor lots of questions before deciding to go with it.

    By the way, today I am two months post-op (which happens to be my birthday as well, I am SO glad I can eat cake!haha) and I totally identified with the phantom drooling, so annoying! I have to check constantly on a mirror because I feel liquid on my chin, but there is nothing.
    Still, Im glad I went trough the surgery, I am already seeing the benefits, although there is still a long way to full recovery.
    Well, long story short, thank you for sharing your experience, it helps a lot to see one is not alone when going through this. =)

  5. Hi,
    I just did my double jaw surgery last february ( the 10th actually) soo i’m finishing day 33 right now. It is soo annoying to not be able to be able to speak like a normal human being. And I know the frustruation is just begging because when they’ll take of those elastics of my mouth I would have to fight against my lazy muscles to open my mouth and learn how to eat again.
    anyway, you were talking about phantom drooling, well I got that but only at the wrong situation. when I’m actually eating I don’t feel a thing and when I’m not I feel saliva (or any liquid) drooling down my chin.
    Style have a week to go ( my surgeon decided to take the elastics of 4 days earlier 🙂 ) I’m extra happy about take.

    Love your blog, really helpful and it halp me feel a bit more normal. 😀

    Oh and I did the awful mistake of going out after only a week of surgery and people were looking at me funny.(ok, I was really swollen but still, people should’nt stare like that) They looked at me like a was some kind of beast. I felt more difform then I was before
    omg, such a long text. haha

    • Elizabeth, drooling makes you feel a bit sub-human, doesn’t it? I remember going to see a movie a few days after surgery and having to bring a cloth with me so I wouldn’t drool all over my seat at the theater! I’m glad you’re now free of elastics and hope you’re able to have a conversation again soon. =)

  6. Day 60. Went to my ortho appt today, I’m still only able to open my mouth about 10mm and I have only been wearing elastics at night for a week now. I told him that if I try to open my mouth wider it really hurts on the left lower side so I was afraid if I pushed it I would do some damage. The ortho says it sounds like I have a “knot” in my muscle which makes sense as it feels harder and looks more swollen on that side. He said to open and close my mouth often to move the muscle and when it starts to hurt stretch it a little further, it won’t do any damage. I have a surgeons appt on Thursday so I will discuss this with him.

  7. Are you missing the gorgeous winter weather here in Edmonton?

    • Hehe, yeah, life here in Bali is pretty tough. Although my family has informed me that it’s not too bad in Edmonton weather-wise right now.

  8. haha thanks Graham!!!

  9. Hey Graham I’m at the 6 week mark and I hate how I look.
    My face is puffy and I look like I gained 10 lbs in my face when in reality I’m down 15 lbs. please tell me this is not how I’m going to look!!

    • Ashley, keep in mind that you’re only halfway to being fully recovered, so you’ll still got a ways to go. Once your swelling is completely gone, the shape of your face will be quite different. So worry not, my friend, for those chubby cheeks should go away over the next month or so! =)

  10. Hi Graham, I had a lefort saggital split on my upper jaw on Aug 9. Just my upper jaw -split, pulled forward. I found your blog prior to surgery and it’s been extremely helpful in preparing me and getting me through the last 5 weeks. It as alleviated some of my concerns along the way. Your best advice has been to remember why you did this on the self doubt/am I nuts days, drinking prune juice, your blending tips and not being surprised or self on conscious about the swelling. thank you for you fantastic humor. It’s kept my humor up. Telling my friends I look like Daisy Duck when I really want to look like Daisy Duke gets a laugh. Splint gets removed in a few days and yes it has been so worth it! Can’t wait til my 90 days.

    • Robin, I’m glad you found my tales enjoyable! Your “I look like Daisy Duck when I really want to look like Daisy Duke” line made me chuckle. Humor has got to be the most useful tool one can have during this recovery, don’t you think?

  11. I am about day 56 and was just wondering about pain, I got an abscess on my stitch site and had it cut open last week then again Friday and ever since ibe been having worst pain on right side like throbbing cramping, the infection is gone so it’s not that, I’m wondering itf it’s just trauma or something but I have to ice it everyday and take Tylenol and it was fine for a long while to point where I didn’t take any pain meds for a few weeks, the swelling puffed up on that side too during infection and it’s slowly going down again, just sick of the incessant pain

    • Pam, does it feel like joint pain or is it the actual inside of your mouth that hurts. Your jaw will still be fairly tight on Day 56, so it’s not unusual to experience little bouts of pain here and there. However, if it’s throbbing for more than a few minutes at a time, I would give your surgeon a quick call and ask them what it might be. Perhaps the flesh where the abscess was cut open is tender and becomes enflamed whenever you eat or drink. Could that be it?

  12. Hi Gaham,

    Got my upper jaw surgery yesterday! Your tips are great! In hospital overnight! Your website is awesome! It really prepared me. Thanks

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