How does it work? You put the mouthpiece in your mouth – or, like me wriggle it in there, since even the foam teeth guards make it wider than I can comfortably open. Gently squeeze the handle as shown above to force the mouth pieces apart, while trying to keep your jaws as relaxed as possible. Hold. Repeat again and again. This passive stretching will, in theory, help to widen the oral opening when the device is used regularly. I have become quite aggressive in using it, since I haven’t been using it much at all before the last couple of weeks, and because at my last dentist visit, he measured my opening at 10mm (yes, millimeters). Get yourself a ruler or tape measure and measure that amount of opening on your own mouth and you can see how limited that is. Much too limited to be able to get fake teeth in, and that’s going to be very important for me down the road as I reach the tipping point on how many teeth have been pulled versus those remaining. I’d prefer to not have to go on a liquid diet. Boring! The only side effect of all of these intense stretching sessions is that it tends to set off spasms in the left side of my face and into my neck and it is very, very painful. Much as I hate to do it, chronic pain in the mouth is a serious downer and interferes with real life, so from time to time I have to have the antispasm and pain meds to deal with those. I figure it’s a small price to pay to perhaps eventually realize my ultimate goal of widening my opening.
And one more reminder to those of you who find this place based on searches related to oral cancer: even if you’re eating through a tube for nine months like I had to, make sure you keep doing exercises to maintain that oral opening. It will avoid complications down the road for you and make post-treatment life much more pleasant. I wish the medical staffs, as amazing as they were, would have emphasized this more. Or that there was a medical treatment they could use to help it, like slicing through the scar tissue and then just dealing with that recovery. There’s a medical procedure for almost everything. But not this. So keep going with widely opening your mouth throughout treatment. If you’re getting radiation to the head and neck that makes you look like a survivor of Hiroshima, this is going to hurt. That’s what the pain meds are for: take them, do the exercises. You’ll be happier in the end that you did.