Jaw Surgery

“I was born with a cleft lip and palate,” begins Dr. Terin M., a jaw surgery patient of Alaska Center for Oral + Facial Surgery. “I had multiple surgeries beginning as an infant through my early childhood. When I was 10 years old, my mother passed away and as a result, my medical care wasn’t as aggressively pursued as it would have been. I still had issues with my upper palate and jaw but was not able to look into a remedy until I became an adult.”

Terin’s upper jaw had not grown sufficiently to allow for a normal bite as a result of scarring from her previous surgeries. She needed reconstructive jaw surgery to establish a normal facial skeletal relationship. “I had orthodontic treatments during medical school in my early 20’s and while these helped with my appearance, they did not solve the functional problems. I lived in Nevada then and inquired with several plastic and oral surgeons, but was quite surprised that no one there could do what I needed. I’m now a practicing physician in Alaska myself, and sometimes recommend treatment in the lower 48 to patients. I thought I would have to do the same,” explains Terin. “I felt defeated. I wasn’t pleased with my appearance and felt like my insides didn’t match my outsides.” 

After completing her medical degree and residency, Terin returned to Alaska and looked up Dr. Nordstrom at the advice of her general dentist, Dr. Charles Spalding, and orthodontist, Dr. Brian Hartman. “I did a lot of research on Dr. Nordstrom and learned he is highly respected within the professional medical community. My first thought was ‘well, he’s been to medical and dental school, he has insight to both disciplines,’ so I went in for a consultation,” remembers Terin. “My mindset at the time was pretty hesitant – almost like ‘here we go again’ – and I had prepared myself for more bad news. But, I was pleasantly greeted by the staff and medical assistants. Dr. Nordstrom was compassionate and understanding of my situation. He and his staff were accommodating and kind, and I started to realize this was the beginning of the groundwork for what I needed.”

Terin had a LeFort I osteotomy, (upper jaw reconstructive surgery). “The procedure itself wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” recalls Terin. “I took pain medicine for the first day then switched to over-the-counter. I think it took about three days to feel ‘human’ again and I was drinking smoothies by the end of the week. Honestly, the worst part was that I had to sleep sitting up. I felt OK enough to cautiously fish two weeks after my surgery.”

Terin shares that her journey with Dr. Nordstrom’s team is not yet complete. “I still have dental implants and bone grafting procedures to go through, but I’m confident in the care I’m receiving from Alaska Center for Oral + Facial Surgery,” Terin says.