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.


  1. I’ve encountered several people whose surgeons tell them they can return to work or school after 10 days. I have no idea where those surgeons are obtaining their information from. I always recommend 4 weeks before returning to either venue. I know I didn’t possess the energy the make it through a day filled with people (or the ability to speak, for that matter) until at least 2—3 weeks post-op.

  2. It’s so funny how opinions can differ across surgeons. When my wires were clipped 6 weeks in, I asked if I could go horseback riding and participate in sports type activities. Mind you, I’d never even been told not to do those things, I just didn’t because I was still weak, the impact hurt my jaw, and it was too uncomfortable to breathe heavily being wired shut.

    He said sure… that my risk of injury was the same it’d be any other time.

    I think my surgeon’s a bit on the less cautious side… especially after he told me that “most people” go back to work after 10 days! “Most people” must be superhuman or something!

    Lastly, kudos to you for replying to comments on here almost every day two years later!

  3. @Kathryn: Nope, I was scared to go in public for a few days following surgery. It’s something that I was always more comfortable with once I explained to people what had happened to me. I loathe when people look at someone funny without understanding the reasons behind their situation.

    @Tasha: I’m still amazed at how much I’ve learned about the human face through this experience. It’s so resilient. Bounces back even after 5 hours of knives and hammers attacking it. Crazy!

  4. Graham, when I first starting reading your blog, you had lots of questions about healing. Now you’re the expert! 😀

  5. I bet the whole summer won’t be a bust, but I understand how you feel right now. For me, I’m at day 13 and although the congestion is getting better, I still have pain and I’m just plain uncomfortable. But, from what everyone says, after the first couple of weeks, things start to improve. So, I’m counting on that. Do the same for you, try to stay positive. I know it’s hard. For the first week, I did nothing but cry and totally felt sorry for myself. It’s okay to do that!

    hahaha….isn’t that funny? I heard from so many people…..”wow, you don’t look so bad at all!!” or “The swelling is almost gone!”

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiight! LOL

  6. i originally decided to have the surgery at the beginning of the summer so that I could just rest and relax the whole time….but it’s been less than a week and I’m starting to feel like this whole summer is going to be a bust…oh well…and thanks for the words of encouragement guys…it’s nice to hear from people who have had the same thing done and not from mother who claims she “can barely see the swelling” lol

  7. I’m fine with people seeing me now. At first, it felt kind of funny, but I was never really embarrassed. But you’re right…..I didn’t want to talk to or see anyone at the beginning because of exhaustion. I’m STILL exhausted…but I’m beginning to feel a little more like myself. When the pain goes away, I’ll be happy.

  8. My bite’s been shifting my entire adult life – not a whole lot, but the caps on my front teeth have caused a bunch of changes in my other teeth, too – so I think you’re right to take it on faith about the shifting of your molars.

  9. Kathryn-

    I did not want or let anyone see me for the first week and half. Mainly because I felt so sick and I just did not have energy at all, plus in my opinion, I looked horrible. I just finally posted my before and after pics on Facebook. I was terrified to put any up because in the beginning, I did not even recognize myself and it was kind of traumatic. I was even afraid for my kids to see me. But-as you have been told, about the 2 week mark, EVERYTHING changes. I was told the same thing and did not believe it, but it is so true. Everyday-I feel like I look a little bit more like myself. And as Graham and I have both said, our surgeons told us that really, you will not get the full idea of what you will look like for about 6 months post op.

    Hang in there-it WILL get better! The first two weeks SUCK! Well, I think it all sucks, but totally gets easier in certain areas!

  10. yes the swelling is very fun…did you want your friends to see you after you had the surgery? Becuase at the moment i don’t want any of them to come remotely close to me

  11. Oh-and I forgot to add….NO, I am not wasting away at all! I sure feel like I am, but the scale says otherwise! I have only lost 5 lbs in 3 weeks! Can you believe that? My gosh-for all this pain and suffering, I would have been happy losing at least like 10 lbs!

  12. I’m on my way Graham! I have been known to do some crazier things! What’s a few hundred dollars (or thousands) for some soup right? Great idea-thanks!

  13. I’m stuck, too. However, I DO eat meat and poultry…so if you’ve got any good recipes that we could make here, I’d be forever grateful. I’m so sick of Ensure, tomato soup (although that’s still my favorite) and french onion soup. I still like smoothies, Jumpin Monkeys and I have yet to do cream of wheat ( but just bought some at the store!!). Need ideas, folks!

    I agree, Tara…you could make a wonderful vegetable soup! Hmmm, that gives me a GREAT idea. I make a wonderful vegetable beef soup (you could minus the beef) – I bet it would blend really well! Yummmmm!

  14. Yikes, without eating meat, Ensure or smoothies, you must be wasting away! I don’t know how you do it. I would be done had it not been for Ensure and smoothies. I used to have to make a smoothie and then let it sit for 20-30 minutes before it was warm enough for me to drink. Try that out.

    As far as meatless soups go… I guess just buy tons of vegetables, some OXO soup base, salt and pepper, maybe garlic powder and make your own?

    If you fly up here, my friend and I will make you a big cauldron of soup to take back with you. =)

  15. This blog makes me laugh!

    So-as you guys know, I am still wired shut, but I am finally able to blend some things up and syringe it in. For instance, I have been eating Cream of Wheat A LOT and gag now when I see it. Same thing with Cheddar Cheese soup, Broccoli cheese soup, French Onion soup. I do not eat meat/poultry of any kind, so I was wondering if anyone has any good soup recipes that are filling. I tend to like more of the salty, not overly creamy types. I have not felt full since this surgery and I am STARVING and running out of options. I do not eat smoothies or milkshakes….the cold kills my teeth. I can not tolerate another Ensure…help!!!! As you can see, my options are limited as I am very picky!

    Thanks to anyone who has any ideas!

  16. Cool. Hopefully you have a painless experience like I did.

    Have fun with all that swelling! 🙂

  17. so…i had the exact same surgery as you on tuesday…this blog has definitely made it easier for me to understand what’s going to happen to me…it’s also kinda funny…thanks

  18. The first time I went out with Ash and Brian I felt REALLY funny and self conscious. Brian and I went to the grocery store last night and I rocked it. In fact, I had a little fun with it. Got to the check out and I hadn’t brought in my bonus card. So, the woman needed my phone number. You got it, lady…..try to understand THESE words! LMAO It took her a while, but she got it…but the whole time, all she wanted to do was stare at me and I knew she was dying to ask what was wrong. I didn’t even go there. LOL It’s kind of like my braces. When I first got them, I was afraid to let anyone see them. After a few weeks, I started getting colors and pretty soon, was showing them off to anyone that would look. If I’ve got ’em, may as well flaunt ’em, huh? hehe

  19. Jaw surgery patients are the sexiest people around. Aren’t we????

    I felt really weird going out in public the first two weeks. I remember people staring at me when I went home from the hospital on day 3. Hell, even my hospital roommate stared at me. I was very self-conscious.

  20. “I already drool without knowing it, why not foam at the mouth?”

    My oh my, we are quite attractive during our recoveries, aren’t we? 😀 I remember being very uneasy about going into public for the first few days because I didn’t want people to see me randomly drool and do my weird yawning attempts.

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