Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What is TMD?

It stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. A disorder that affects 5-15% of people in the US according to NIDCR. I am among the 5-15% that suffer with this every day.

It took a long time for me to be diagnosed, and everyones is a little different, but mine started out when I woke up one morning not able to open my mouth. We are very fragil I suppose as humans. The day before we were moving stuff out of the house we were moving from and my brother was chasing me around the house trying to hit me with a towel, to try to avoid him, I ran into the laundry room that had a shelf at neck level. I fell back on it and it hit my neck. Now I did not think this was a big deal. So I had a little red on my neck and mom told us to stop horsing around. It did not hurt that bad. Problem is, that you can easily slid a disc in your jaw out of place if you have an impact like that. Whiplash can do it too and I have had whiplash as well years earlier.

It's scary to see how simple it can be to change the rest of your life, but from the time I woke up that next day until now, my life has changed. I was 16. It took them 2 years and several doctors to find out what was wrong. At first, my mom didn't even believe me. I'm like hello?! I can't even eat a hamburger! and you think I'm faking??? so finally after 1 month of still complaining that I couldn't open my mouth, my mom started taking me to doctors, chiropracters, dentists. Everyone tried to yank my jaw open with different therapys, but nothing worked. I was starting to get depressed because I couldn't eat, I couldn't yawn. Yawning was painful because I could never do it. I would go to my room and hit my jaw and try to open it myself it had just become too much for this teenager. After a whole summer of lockjaw, my mouth finally opened on it's own one day and ended my depression. I finally got diagnosed by my childhood doctor and she knew right away what was wrong with me.

I had started to get a big bump under one side of my jaw. I thought it was a tumor or something. She said it was just the muscle swollen up on my jaw and demonstrated how I could alleviate the pressure. Cotton balls, basically, and no I never did this. I can't stand the feeling of cotton balls on my teeth. Another chiropracter told me I should not eat anything chewy anymore. Gum, steak, anything chewy. Well what can I eat then? I just finally gave up on all that and after 11 years of having this problem now, I have found out what works for me, or what makes it worse. So, yes, I shouldn't chew gum. Everytime I do (because I can't resist!), I get really bad headaches. Actually, now for the past year or two I have bad bad headaches every single day, every minute of every day that I treat with OTC Excedrin Migraine. That is the only thing that gives me a little relieve and lately that hasnt been working.

My jaw pops all the time. Everytime I have to open it wide. Yawning, singing, eating are the most difficult. You take so much for granted. I don't even remember what it's like to have a normal jaw that doesn't pop all the time. I remember in choir in high school the director didn't know I had this problem and he would get onto me and tell me to open my mouth wider when I sing and I tried to tell him that I couldn't, but he wasn't listening.

I could have surgery, and it may come down to that some day, but I am trying to avoid that. There are risks involved and I just dont want to go that route.

The one thing that I keep around that helps me the most is a rice sock. I just bought a bag of rice, any white rice and fill up an old sock of mine that I can't find a match to tie it off, and microwave it for about a minute and 30 seconds. Then I put it on my jaw, the back of my neck, or wherever I am feeling pain and by the next day, I am at least feeling better than the day before. We even use the rice sock for my husbands muscle pain. The warmth of it does wonders for about anything.

It took me a while of research to find out, but it is not hereditary. It is usually caused by some kind of injury, like a neck injury or jaw injury. People sometimes develop TMJ after car accidents. I didn't seem to have a clear reason for mine. I wouldn't call hitting the back of my neck on a shelf an injury. It wasn't bad, but it is the only explanation I have.

If you can get one, a fitted mouthguard should help. I would like to get one, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. You need to get it from your dentist. You arent' supposed to use the store kind mouthguards if you have TMD.

Also, If your teeth are misaligned, that can also cause you TMJ problems. I also have just one tooth out of alignment and some crowding, and a slight overbite. This may have also contributed to my problems and a friend of mine that has TMD too, she got braces and she said her problems didn't go away, but they got better. And that is something else that I am looking into. I would like to get the new invisalign braces. Clear like trays that fit over your teeth and you can't even tell you have braces in. You can take them out when you're eating. They have flexible payment plans. I would love to get those. If I do, I will let you know. I like that they don't stay in as long as metal braces either. You may have them on for as little as a year. If you are interested, they will send you free information from their website (which I did receive in the mail), even your consultation is free, just go to They give you all the details, even lists invisalign providers in your area so you can schedule your visit.

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