beforeafter – A (Singaporean) Double Jaw Surgery Journey – Art Project

Author’s Note: I posted this before and looked back at it recently (I stupidly don’t open posts right after I publish it and check it, I assume it was fine) and discovered that the contents were empty leaving only the cover image, I am painfully re-writing this from scratch (as I slowly solve my Google Search Console problems) to see if it still has that problem after. Enjoy the re-telling.

Introduction

I developed a severe under-bite (bottom jaw is jutting/longer than the top jaw, causing a misaligned bite) as I was growing up that affected my self-esteem and confidence, double jaw surgery is where this is corrected by controlled fracturing of the jaw . removal of extra bone growth and realigning of the jaw to form a perfect bite.

It took 5 years of braces, I joined the National Dental Center’s queue for subsidized braces, I got to the front of that queue but was too busy to do it at the time, went to the back of the queue and waited again, 5 years total before and after the surgery, 4 years 6 months before the surgery, done by a National Dental Center surgeon at the Singapore General Hospital, to prepare for it, 6 months after to realign the teeth to the new bite. A recovery period of 2 weeks of liquid diet after the surgery, 1 month plus of soft food before transitioning back to the usual solid foods.

The Project: Introduction

If you are here for more practical information about the jaw surgery, skip this part, this just the context for the art project. After this is all the details with some related drawings.

During my time in my one year top up degree, I decided on this project as one of the projects I would be graded on, I went through the surgery as I was doing the degree, this was a surgery that I wanted to have for over 10 years, I had to wait until my bones stopped growing to have it.

I wanted to make a project where it was informational/educational, transparent about the costs of the surgery here in Singapore, a lot of the resources google-able at the time/growing up were mostly about the recovery process, the before and after, and not really about the cost.

A lot of them were covered by costly insurance that they still had to fight to claim, this surgery is considered functional and not aesthetic although the look of your face can change, some insurance companies can’t handle that. I was not covered by any insurance whatsoever and the surgery was still very affordable.

Those that partially claimed it or didn’t have any insurance still wouldn’t show how much it actually costs, my project wanted to address that.

My project was also about reflection/acceptance of my new look, it took me awhile to digest and readjust to my new look, both my own reaction and others, some people don’t recognize me at all, some people think there’s no change, etc. How different of a life I would have lead if I didn’t have that under-bite and was more confident, stuff like that.

I thought this was a good balanced two part project of being educational (the usual worthy design goal) and also resolving my own personal problems/issues (the artsy side goal).

My lecturer obviously thought it was a overly narcissistic, unnecessary project (it is technically all about my looks) and didn’t approve of it outwardly and could barely contain his disapproval, I did it anyway, just cause.

The project was originally a domain bought website with before and after drawings placed in a bad web design because I am more of a illustrator than a designer and had quotes from my family of their reaction to my post surgery and all that, I won’t be including those. In retrospect, it was a little much for that to be in but it was meant to be artsy as well so there’s that.

The Journey

As mentioned in the introduction, I went the subsidized braces route, you wait for your turn, you pay once and it covers you for as long as you have braces, even after surgery save for some extra little costs here and there, like x-rays for your jaw, its roughly, $2,000+, I forgot if its Medisave deductible, I want to say no, just to be on the safe side. As braces are still considered aesthetics without the functional surgery.

The $2000 price tag is already it being subsidized and its for your whole braces journey, be it a year or in my case of bone growth and stubborn teeth, 5 years.

Leading up to the surgery, there’s some sessions with the surgeon, each session costs $30, and the big whammy is the $400 out of nowhere cost of like measuring your face with multiple specific measuring tools to plan out his surgery.

He said that I might need a rhinoplasty which is a nose job and I was like what? and he changed his mind about it, I shouldn’t have said anything because in the end because of how my jaw is, he had to do a chin job for me to make everything even, so I got a chin job hidden under the guise of a jaw surgery, could have gotten a nose job too.

There are a lot of things to clear, like possible after effects, possible nerve damage, you will get a booklet with all the statistics for you to reconsider, you will likely be asked to draw your own blood to supply yourself with blood for the surgery, I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and right after it.

The surgery was a day surgery, took 8 hours, 2 hours for the anesthesia to fully take hold, (my anesthesiologist kept telling me how he saw a girl who went through the same surgery and came out super pretty and assured I would be the same way), 4 hours surgery then 1 hour observation before wheeling me out? I have forgotten but it wasn’t a short time.

Please hold onto your phone/ask for it when you are out, you will likely be awake and be unable to sleep like me after and just want to stare at your phone. My back/butt hurt more than my jaw after from lying down so long on the operating bed I feel.

And then the actual hospitalization/surgery bill which I can just post here. Subsidized Ward then high dependence ward after the surgery which is normal to monitor you after a major surgery, (jaw surgery is the same category as heart surgery in terms of how much you can use your Medisave for)

In the end a total of $70.52 cash was used, $2,000 for the braces, lets round it up to $2,500 just in case, and extra specialist costs, $600, in total it would be, $3,100. Purely uninsured, subsidized non-private route. With the medishield life and medisave amounts withdrawn there as well for reference.

As mentioned before, while many take the surgery because its about their aesthetics, its a functional surgery as well as your teeth will wear down wrongly over time due to a wrong bite affecting which teeth actually touch each other while biting.

After hospitalization, they will give you many cans of Ensure (meal replacement drink brand) to use for your liquid diet, (as your jaw will be banded shut by many rubber bands tightened around your metal braces) they taste horrible, the powder version of them taste amazing.

Not even kidding, just get the powder version, they will also give you lots of painkillers, I had little to no pain during the recovery.

Just be ready for the swelling and everyone staring at you in the hospital ward.

Soft foods I ate were carrot cake, sponge cake, noodles etc. You will visit your surgeon every week and he will access and slowly unbind your rubber bands then you can talk again, eventually moving onto solid foods and you are done.

You will have more braces appointments to readjust your teeth even more, measure how big your jaw can open to make sure you can still open it normally and eventually take the braces off and you get your retainers which you have to wear every night for the rest of your teeth’s lives for perfect teeth.

Hopefully you will not have too many physical or psychological side-effects, if a nerve gets clipped by accident you will likely have no more feeling there, or worse no control over that muscle area.

Psychological is more of coming to terms with your new look and accepting it, dealing with people who known you before and seeing you after, etc.

As part of the project I drew myself at various points of my life and how different it might have been if I had no under-bite, like an identity change retroactively, doesn’t seem to have that much different but it was hard to estimate how much change they would have been retroactively.

And there you have it, the whole journey and information all laid out in a WordPress post than a shoddy website.

If you are in Singapore and you have any questions, you can comment here and I will help you as much as I can.

If you liked what you read, please consider supporting me on Patreon (monthly) or ko-fi (one time donations).

Stay safe~!
JR

3 Comments

  1. First: Lovely art!
    Second: I wish hospital bills looked like this in the United States! Something simple as this cost almost triple the uninsured amount PLUS hidden surgical fees.
    Third: No matter what, beauty lies within. Glad you were able to get the surgery you needed.

    Like

    1. Hello, Gothy!

      Thank you!

      Yes, I remember researching the problem years ago and looking at in the USA context, having robust health insurance in the USA is the only real way to get this surgery “affordably”, I am thankful our health system is kind to these preexisting conditions.

      I agree! Even after having the surgery, it can be like, there’s just always something else to have, getting ripped from the gym, fixing the nose, etc. I realize that its a slippery slope that never ends and I have to make peace with inner beauty or I would just go down that never ending list of superficial things to improve on.

      Cheers,
      JR

      Like

      1. Maybe I should research more with outside health care systems. I’m so accustomed to the US, I forget not everyone have similar structures as us. Man, but thanks again JR for your post. It is insightful, and I shall continue to read your wonderful works.

        Keep posting and stay wonderful!

        Liked by 1 person

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