Bristol Palin is back in the news. She has admitted to having corrective jaw surgery. But some people don't seem to buy it. Now I have no idea if she did anything cosmetic, but I do know all about corrective jaw surgery. Let me take you on a little journey...
Visiting day. 1990. My parents and I are sitting on the white Adirondack chairs at the waterfront. I put on my white bathing cap, dropped my towel, and smiled at my parents. I was about to show them how great my swimming skills had become over the first four weeks at sleepaway camp.
"See you later, guys." I said and started to turn away.
"Wait!" my mom cried out. She turned to my father. "There's something wrong with Logan's mouth." My father looked at her as if she had six heads.
"What are you talking about? She looks beautiful. There's nothing wrong with her mouth." He gave me a kiss on my cheek.
"Mom, there's nothing wrong with me," I yelled and ran towards the lake.
What I didn't know at that very moment was that my mother was right. She managed to notice the first millimeter change of my idiopathic joint problem (officially called, "idiopathic condylar resorption of the temporomandibular joint"), the problem that we would spent the next eleven years trying to fix.
As it turned out, for most of my adolescence, my joint disintegrated, my top and bottom teeth stopped hitting each other when I bit down, my chin receded, my nose drooped slightly, and I lost definition in my face (my cheekbones went from high to low and wide).
In eleven years I had four operations: one to enhance my chin until my jaw was reset, one to flush out the joints that were causing me excruciating pain, one where my top and bottom jaws were broken, reset, and wired shut for six weeks (which meant being back in braces during my senior year in high school, I may add), and one when I was twenty three, newly engaged, and back in braces to fix what devastatingly hadn't worked during high school: an operation where the remnants of the joint were removed and rebuilt using a piece of my rib, and I was wired shut, again.
I know what it's like to look in the mirror and see that something isn't right. It's not just cosmetic. You can feel the inside of your mouth and your teeth completely out of whack. You can feel the difference because days, months, years ago, everything set up perfectly. But now, for some strange reason it doesn't. And on top of that, you feel physical pain -- the daily physical pain -- of having your teeth and jaw overstressed.
So while I have been relentless with my criticism of Bristol Palin (and will continue to do so regarding her politics about teen sexuality, pregnancy, and sexual health), I will not be a critic today. Corrective jaw surgery is not plastic surgery. It is amazing what a shift of your jaw can do to your entire face, your entire body (you lose weight after being wired shut), and more importantly, what it can do to your entire self-esteem.
When I walked into my high school after my third surgery, no one recognized me. I had lost fifteen pounds and my face was defined and perky. I looked pretty. My face looked like what I had remembered it being before my mom's outburst at camp four years earlier. But of course, there were rumors, "Did you hear? Logan had a nose job. That's why she looks like that." Really? A nose job would have been a walk in the park. It wasn't a nose job. Not even close.
For those of you who continue to criticize Bristol's looks or what she may or may not have altered, consider this: You have no idea what it's like to wake up every morning scrutinizing your upper teeth, making sure that they still line up perfectly with your bottom ones. Or what it's like to jam your tongue through the bite itself, trying to measure if the amount of tongue that is visible has changed since yesterday. I do this every single day; I imagine that if Bristol indeed has a jaw disorder, she does it too.
Follow Dr. Logan Levkoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LoganLevkoff