Eating with a broken jaw?

So what do you eat when you have a wired up jaw?

If only...

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.

January 25, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Breaking the Jaw – Part 4: Prison Break

I can totally understand how people in prison a long time can become institutionalised and find it hard to adapt to the freedom of the outside world.  I was only in hospital for six days but it was quite a shock to leave the routine and confines of the hospital ward and back into the mainstream world.  But it felt great to take off the hospital pajamas and put on my own clothes, and to be detached from the drip that had been my constant companion for the whole time. I was free.

Let me backtrack a bit. In the last installment, I had just had the operation. A few hours later, after I’d had a doze, the doctor came round and said that I’d had two metal plates attached to my lower jaw (at my chin) as he’d described to me before the op.  But he’d also had to put another metal plate on my upper jaw (near my left ear) to stabilise my bite. The good news was that he’d been able to do all this from inside my mouth so there’d be no scar on my face.

I was pretty swollen up and he said it would take a couple of weeks for the swelling to go down. I also had stitches inside my mouth where they had made the incisions so I had to gargle frequently with mouthwash to stop infection. But the worst thing was my throat was really painful – apparently this was common and was caused by the tube they put down my throat to help me breathe during the operation (yikes).

My mouth would remain wired shut for a few more days (so I was back to shooting liquid food in my mouth with the syringe) but he said they could then remove some of the rubber bands and start my jaw physiotherapy.

But then things started to go wrong.  My temperature started to rise rapidly.  The nurses kept coming in and checking on me with worried expressions.  I felt resonably ok, apart from being pretty spaced out with all the drugs they were feeding me.  The nurses took all sorts of samples (blood, spit, urine, earwax – ok I could be wrong about earwax) and kept checking my temperature every hour during the night.  At 4am they announced I was to go and get an x-ray. An x-ray? So off I went with my friend the drip to wait in a long queue for a chest x-ray. Turns out it was the right thing to do: I had a collapsed lung!

It sounded bad, but I still didn’t actually feel too bad. The doc explained the next morning that a collapsed lung was a fairly common side effect of general anaesthesia with intubation, and the most likely cause of my fever.  But it could be fixed by doing some light walking around the ward and some deep breathing.  That day I spent hours striding around the ward and breathing deeply.  I probably looked like a mad man.   But I was pleased they had found the cause of the fever and to have something to focus on.  And thankfully my fever gradually subsided.

On the day of my release (the Thursday) the doc removed some of the rubber bands that had been clamping my jaw together. He asked me to try to open my mouth. I managed to open it a few milimetres: clearly I wasn’t going to be on the hamburgers for a while yet.  He instructed me to practise opening and closing my mouth slowly at least 100 times a day. I duly promised to do so. He also gave me a bag of elastic bands and showed me how to put new ones on my mouth wiring. 

And with that I was allowed to leave.  Freedom at last!

January 13, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Jaw wiring for weight loss?

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?

January 7, 2012. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Breaking the Jaw – Part 3: Operation!

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.

January 6, 2012. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Facial hair revolution?

A model sports the latest trend in pre-jaw op fashion

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.

January 3, 2012. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Breaking the Jaw – Part 2: Dental horror

It wasn't quite this bad

“I’m sorry but this is going to be very painful” said the dentist.  “And it’ll take around 3 hours, so please go to the toilet now before we start”.  When the dentist says something is going to hurt, you can be sure it will.

This was Saturday, the day after my fall, and I had just taken the short walk from the main hospital to the dental wing, wheeling along the drip that was feeding me painkillers and antibiotics.  They had also given me regulation hospital pajamas to wear.  I was starting to feel like a real invalid.

The dentist spoke decent English so he was able to explain that he would be fitting metal archbars to my teeth to hold my jaw in place and stabilise the injury.  At this stage I still had an open wound in my mouth, my gum being split in two between my centre bottom teeth.  It was really disgusting– it looked as though I’d lost a tooth but actually the gap was just where the gum was hanging apart.

The dentist decided to tackle this first.  With me lying back on the chair, he brought his two hands round my chin and from both sides pushed my jaw, gum and teeth back into position.  I almost leapt out of the chair – it was excruciating.  But after the initial shock the pain subsided quickly.  He then used the archbars and wires attached to my teeth to hold things together in that position.

Getting the archbars on was uncomfortable, and my gums bled lots as he wound the wires between my teeth.  But though I could feel lots of pressure and tugging, plus lots of unpleasant noises, there were not too many moments of sharp pain.  He’d injected painkillers into my gums beforehand (getting the jabs was sore as they always are) so that took the edge off most of the pain.  It did take around 3 hours in total to finish, as he’d warned.

He attached the bars to my teeth using metal wire, but when it came to bringing my top and bottom teeth together he used numerous little elastic bands hooked onto the bars to hold my jaw in place. 

When he was done I couldn’t move my jaw at all but I was surprised that I could still actually speak.  Not well of course, but well enough to be understood most of the time.  I found I just had to concentrate on using my lips to enunciate the words as clearly as possible.

Eating was a different story, but that’s a topic for another day…

January 2, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Celebrity Jawbreaker: Homer Simpson

Homer ups his listening skills

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?

January 1, 2012. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Breaking the jaw – Part 1: Blood on the streets

This was unfortunately not Tru:Blood but real me blood

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.

December 31, 2011. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

New Year’s Resolution No.1

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.

December 31, 2011. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


Step 1: Banana milk

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.

December 30, 2011. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


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