So what do you eat when you have a wired up jaw?
In some ways I’ve been lucky. I had my jaw completely wired shut for only around a week after the operation, then again for another two weeks when the recovery started to go wrong (more on that another day). The rest of the time I’ve been able to remove the elastics for eating, and have now started to manage some soft foods. But I have read about people having their jaws completely wired shut for around 6 weeks, and this is more likely to be the case if you opt for “closed reduction” rather than “open reduction” treatment – open reduction being the operation I had where three metal places were fixed to my jaw. By the way, I found a great simple description the different treatments here.
The first week I had my jaw wired shut I was in hospital the whole time, so most of what I ate was hospital food. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m living in Korea so what I got here will no doubt be a bit different from hospital food in Europe or North America. But probably not that much – there’s only so much you can feed people with their jaws wired. For each meal I’d usually get a watery soup, a fruit juice or energy drink, and sometimes a milk or milkshake. And that was pretty much it. I longed for more flavour and something more substantial. I got a friend to bring me a smoothie one day but it was just too hard to drink so soon after the operation – it was too much effort to suck through a straw and most of it too thick anyway to get through the gaps in my teeth.
The second time I was wired shut I was eating at home the whole time so I got the chance to experiment. The key was to maximise variety and flavour. You get so bored drinking the same milkshake all the time and it’s not exactly giving you a balanced diet. I’ve heard of people putting all sorts of things in the blender and trying to drink it, including steak dinners, but I went for more conventional options. Two things in particular kept me going:
Soup – freshly prepared or canned. The main thing was that it had to be smooth liquid – eg cream of tomato or corn cream. A good source of veg too.
Smoothies – with lots of fruit – strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwi, mango, pineapple. I blended as much as I could but I still found bits getting stuck in the wires. Frozen fruit is cheaper (I went through a lot). To the fruit I would add milk and/or yogurt, or occasionally ice cream. A splash of eggnog worked well too and made me feel a bit more in the Christmas spirit. Finally, to give some more sustenance, I used to add cereal to my smoothies – Cheerios and Frosties were good, but I’m sure lots of others would work well too.
Fruit and vegetable juices were a good source of vitamins, though I went easy on the orange juice to avoid a sore stomach. One trick I found to make vegetable juice taste better was to add a sprinkle of pepper before drinking.
As I write I’m still wired up, but I only need to put all the elastics on at night: during the day I can remove all except two bands on each side, allowing me to open my mouth just enough to slip in a square of chocolate. And at meal times I am allowed to remove them completely. This lets me eat some more solid foods, but to be honest I can only manage soft things like mashed potato, pasta and rice at the moment. That said, it’s truly fantastic to be able to have some different tastes again after those weeks wired shut.
The sites I’ve linked to on the right have some great ideas for eating when wired. And please post below if you have advice you’d like to share with your fellow jawbreakers.
Do you know some people have actually chosen to get their jaw wired shut so they can lose weight? According to eHow
Wiring the jaw for the treatment of obesity was popular in the 1970s and ’80s, and now seems to have been replaced as a popular weight loss method by gastric bypass and lap band surgery. However, jaw wiring is still an effective approach to weight reduction
I lost weight when I had my jaw wired the first time but it just came straight back on again after the wires were removed. So I imagine for obese patients it can only be a temporary measure. Personally speaking, if I were obese and the doc mentioned getting my jaw wired I would be on the salads quick smart. Maybe that’s the idea: threaten torture to get the obese patient to change their ways. That said, it seems as though the jaw wiring for obesity is a bit different from what us jawbreakers are getting done:
Brackets are bonded to the upper and lower teeth and a thin wire is used to connect the brackets in order to keep the jaw in position. The brackets and wire are arranged in order to keep your lower jaw semi-closed and in a resting position, which allows for moderate movement allowing you to speak clearly, yet preventing you from chewing solid food.
So not quite so bad perhaps, but still not something I’d ever sign up for. I found a forum where someone had asked if they should get it done. Responses were pretty incredulous as you’d imagine, but this one summed things up pretty well:
I had my (broken) jaw wired shut for 4 weeks. I lost weight, but gained it right back again once I could eat. The feeling of not being able to open your mouth is absolute, mind numbing torture. You get to the point where you feel like scratching at your mouth, or raging so hard you would pull your teeth out for one big open mouthed gasp of air. Not to mention a month of pureed soup, Ensure and nasty teeth to boot.
I cannot imagine why anyone would voluntarily do this, it was an utterly miserable nonstop hell of a feeling for a month.
Anyone ever had the jaw wiring for weight loss done or know someone who has? Is it still something that’s done?
I hated being in hospital surrounded by ill people. I hated the sickly disinfectant smell that I was sure only masked something much worse. I hated hearing the occasional shouts of pain that came from along the corridor. I hated the frequent injections and being attached to the drip that I had to wheel around everywhere I went. I hated the disgusting liquid food I had to shoot into my mouth with a syringe. I hated coughing up chunks of blood that I couldn’t spit out because my teeth were wired shut (ok too much information I know). I hated the regulation pajamas that felt like a prison uniform.
I was thoroughly miserable. But more than anything I was scared. I’d never been to hospital before. I was in a foreign country. My wife and family were overseas. And I had my first ever operation in 48 hours. One of the doctors came with an interpreter and some forms I had to sign to permit them to do the operation and to confirm that I understood the risks. They told me that I had broken my jaw (yep), and that I would have an operation to attach a metal plate to my jawbone (not good). They would perform the operation by making an incision inside my mouth (good lord) and pull back the skin over my jaw (big yuck); doing it that way would mean I would not have any visible scars (ok that’s better). I would be given a general anaesthetic (how can you be sure I will wake up again or that I won’t wake up during the operation?) and during the operation they would put tube down my nose (ewww) and put me on an artificial breathing machine (now just hold on one minute…).
Yep I was truly terrified. It sounded horrific. Waiting for the moment of doom was the worst. They told me it would happen on Monday but they couldn’t be sure when. On the day I watched clock and listened for noises in the corridor. I thought it might help to know more about the operation and so I started to look for information on the internet. Confront your fears, is that not what you’re meant to do? Bad move – all I can say is that watching YouTube videos of the operation you’re about to have is not advisable.
Around 3 o’clock a group of nurses and orderlies appeared at the door. It was time. I was given a sedative. Instantly I started to feel a bit dopey. That helped settle my nerves at bit. I was then wheeled away on a bed to the operating theatre. Once there a friendly looking young girl said hi. Are there going to be students observing? No one had told me about that. She told me she would be my anaesthetist. Gulp. Ok she’s young I thought, not much experience that’s true, but she looks calm and confident. “Will you be staying with me all the time?” I whimpered. She said she would. I felt like a wee lost boy.
She was giving me the anesthesia now, she said. I looked up – I was surprised; I’d thought she would have given me more warning. Now? Really? I started to wonder if she would ask me to count backwards from ten…
Next thing I hear some voices and commotion around me. Someone touches my shoulder. That’s your operation over, they say. I open my eyes. I feel swollen. Do I have a bandage around my head? My bed is moving again. I see more blurred figures and hear some voices around me. Someone asks me to bite down. I am aware I am back in my room. Elastic bands are being re-attached to the metal archbars. But not so many as before. That seems good. But before I can ponder on that any longer, I am back in a deep sleep.
On the day of my jaw operation I thought that I had struck gold, a whole new way of wearing one’s facial hair which would sweep the world: I had created the reverse goatee.
Let me explain. Just before my operation, a nurse appeared at the door with a cheap disposable razor and indicated that I needed to get shaving. Trying to hide my horror at the thought of hacking away at four days’ growth on my tender jaw with that prehistoric tool, I asked in my most polite Korean if she could possibly procure some shaving foam for me. The answer was that I would have to make do with the bar of soap in the bathroom. But then the stroke of genius: I negotiated that I need not shave my whole face, just the bit round the mouth. Thus the reverse goatee was born.
A few days later, recovering in the post-op haze, I suddenly remembered my new fashion creation. Filled with excitement, my fingers trembled as I entered the two words into google. Blast! Someone had already invented it. Sometimes I think there are few new things left to be discovered in this world.
It’s surprisingly hard to find full Simpsons episodes online, but I finally found a site where I could watch the one where Homer breaks his jaw and gets it wired shut (Season 13 Episode 9).
I won’t spoil it for you by telling you the story but breaking his jaw becomes a life changing experience for Homer. There’s a particularly amusing moment when he first finds out that he won’t be able to eat solid food and dashes to a “Suicide Machine” in the corner of the doctor’s surgery. The prospect of no steaks or donuts is just too much to bear.
Is Homer Simpson the most famous jawbreaker out there? Any other celebrity victims?
When I opened my eyes I was aware of a Korean girl tugging hard at my arm and saying repeatedly “blood, blood, blood”. I realised I was lying face down on concrete. I moved my head around to see that she was pointing at some pools of blood on the ground behind me. My blood? When I got to my feet I staggered to the side of the road where there was an iron fence that I could grab to steady myself. I felt really dizzy and could now feel blood pouring from my chin. Some Irish guy ran over and asked “Who hit you?”
I really don’t think anyone hit me but to be honest I don’t remember much about how I fell and broke my jaw. I think I probably fainted. It had been a really long Friday at work and I’d gone over 12 hours without eating anything. And then I went with a friend to have a couple of beers at a nearby bar. All of a sudden I started feeling sick and dizzy, so I told my friend I was going to head outside for some air. Next thing I know I am on the ground outside and the Korean girl is pulling at my arm. The Irish chap who thought I’d been hit was great. Once he was sure I wasn’t going to keel over again he managed to get a taxi driver to agree to drive me to the hospital – with all the blood I was not the most popular hire that’s for sure. At the emergency room I tried my best to explain in Korean what had happened and was soon sent for X-rays and a CT scan. Then they stitched up the cut on my chin.
I was in shock and for a good while couldn’t stop shaking. I was silently pleading to the gods that my jaw wouldn’t be broken. I wasn’t in pain; I had no problem speaking: how could it be broken? It was. The x-rays came back and showed it was broken in three places: at my chin at the point of impact, and on either side near my ears. Nightmare. A hundred questions started running through my mind – whether I would need an operation, if I’d be in work on Monday, what would my wife say…
I didn’t plan to write about all this in so much detail. I could have just told you I fainted, fell and broke my jaw in three places. But now that I’ve started I may as well go into all the gory details – I hope any readers out there will indulge me.
Why start a blog? Well, I’ve got a long weekend off work for New Year, and I’m feeling pretty miserable because of my jaw, so I thought to share my misery with others in the same situation as me. I’m thinking it will be a good way to let off steam rather than continually moan at my family, friends and work colleagues about how awful it is being wired shut. And I’ve decided to do it anonymously so I won’t hold back on how I’m feeling for fear of being embarrassed by who might read it.
When I first broke my jaw I started scouring the internet for information about what was going to happen, what the treatment would be like, and how long recovery would take. I found a few good sites and a fair amount of information, much of it geared to medical students, but the best for me were the ones by patients for patients – and I’ll make sure I link to them on this site. They’ve helped me to understand much better what has been going on, and it’s been really good just to hear from people who’ve been through the same thing. This has been really important to me as I live in Korea where few hospital staff can speak English. I speak some Korean, but not enough to understand all that is going on, so other sources of information have been crucial.
Anyway, I hope that you fellow jawbreakers out there find this blog helpful. I plan to update each day. But this being the last day of the year is perhaps not the best day to make promises about the future. New Year’s resolutions rarely last. So if no more posts appear you can assume I gave up this silly blog idea and found something better to do with my time.
Well, if you’ve broken your jaw you’ll likely come to know bananas very well like I have. Banana milk, banana smoothies, mushed up banana, and finally just a banana. In that order of banana progression you can judge how far you’re coming with your jaw recovery. Banana milk for when you’ve just broken your jaw; small spoonfuls of mushed up banana when your arch bars get loosened a bit; then the joy of biting into a banana when you’re able to open your mouth that wide again. That’s the goal, that’s the goal. Mmmm bananas.