Let's start with the moral of the story: don't be a dumbass and think you'll hold up forever if you neglect your health. My neglect of a couple lost fillings and unwillingness to pay for care meant I needed to get a couple root canals for several years, but I put the procedure off much longer than I should have. My wisdom teeth were also deteriorating and no dentist was willing to fill the cavities, saying they'd just come back because they're almost impossible to keep clean. By August of 2014, I was playing the best I ever had, spending 5 hours a day practicing, plus doing gigs, teaching and taking lessons with one of the greatest players/teachers in the world.
On August 7th, I had to stop practicing, because keeping air pressure in my mouth for more than two days at a time would cause my abscessed teeth to flare up excrutiatingly. I worried about causing further damage, but also worried I'd be in so much pain that I'd have to miss a gig or worse yet, screw up on one. Since gigging and teaching privately are my only income, I cut my playing down to ONLY the two gigs I'd do on weekends.
At this time, I began making appointments, getting taken for a ride by a dental office who lied and did nothing, waiting over a month for another appointment with an oral surgeon only to find he'd quit working for the office the weekend before the procedure, etc. By late December, I'd gotten all the major work done, and after healing up from the extractions, I was able to start practicing again in January.
At first, tone and stamina were the biggest issues. I couldn't play more than 40 minutes without tiring out and playing horribly. Over the 7 weeks or so, I've worked up to about 3.5 hours a day, and I've kind of hit a wall. I seem to tire out pretty bad after that unless I'm taking frequent breaks, in which case I really need to be home all day to dedicate the time to shedding, in which case I can usually tack on an extra hour.
At this point, my sound is back, although I have good days and bad. Sometimes everything sounds and feels perfect, but sometimes I find myself biting a lot, tiring quickly, playing with poor sound. I've also gotten my finger technique about as good as it was, I think, doing focused finger drills daily. Articulation is coming along, able to tongue 16ths at 130 for a little while before tiring and slowing down. Scales are coming together... most days I can play majors and minors cleanly in 16ths and triplets at 160 or 180, though I still have bad days there, too, which is extremely annoying.
The slowest things to come back right now, and it may be because I've been focused on pure saxophone skills, have been sight reading and improvisation. I just have to work on reading more, and that's ok. Improv is a bit stranger... I have good ideas, but sometimes I can't execute them. I have a hard time connecting lines like I used to, as well, particularly at up tempos. It's strange because I know the finger technique is there... I do drills every day that should have me sitting pretty at very high tempos. The ideas are just not as clearly formed in my head, though. Playing tastefully on rock, blues or pop stuff is not a problem, but typical jazz nazi cutting session stuff is kicking my ***.
It has been getting better with time, but if anyone has drills or methods to hurry any of the various processes along, let's hear em!