Yes, that is my x-ray image. Can you spot the extra tooth creeping? 😀 Isn’t it bad enough that I have a slight overbite that makes me look like Bucky? Now I also have a random extra tooth. That’s not the issue, though. The issue is the way my face is structured has caused me to develop a nasty little thing called TMJ.
First I want to talk about what TMJ is, the symptoms, how I was finally diagnosed, and what treatment plans and options I’m thinking of undergoing. I just want to share my experience, so it’s out there for anybody who may be searching the internet on TMJ. About 3 million people have some form of TMD, so I know I’m not the only one out there.
What is TMJ Dysfunction:
The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. When this joint is injured or damaged, it can lead to a disorder called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.
Causes of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction include injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, teeth grinding, poor posture, stress, arthritis, and gum chewing.
- Grinding and chomping.
I found out that I was grinding and chomping (yes, literally chomping!) my teeth at night. Bae discovered it about three years ago. I didn’t believe him, so he recorded a video of it. I could not believe that I was chomping my teeth like that at night. Nighttime is when we’re supposed to sleep and are muscles are supposed to be relaxed. Imagine just grinding your teeth all night. Think about it. It’s not good nor healthy to your teeth and joint muscles.
- Dull aching pain in the jaw.
I have dull pain that radiates through my jaw and into my neck, shoulders, and head. Usually it’s worse in the morning.
- Jaw clicking and popping.
I hate the sound of my jaw popping. It really unnerves me. The popping and clicking always comes from the right side of my jaw, and I don’t even have to open my jaw very wide. I could just be eating, and I hear it start to click and pop.
- Frequent Migraines.
A lot of times I wake up with a killer migraine. I’ve been on Topamax (currently off of it due to breastfeeding), and am currently on Sumatriptan, so when I get one of those I want to hide in a dark corner and die migraines I take two 50mg of Sumatriptan. If the migraine is somewhat tolerable I take Excedrin Migraine (generally it works for the pain).
- About every 3-4 months I’ll get a migraine that just won’t go away. It will last for days and no matter what I take it won’t go away. When this happens I usually go to the E.R, and I get a shot of Toradol injected into my bottom. I also get Benadryl in my IV as well as IV fluids because I tend to become severely dehydrated when I have migraines due to vomiting (I vomit everything and anything including water).
These earaches are like nothing I have EVER experienced in my life. And, it’s progressively getting worse. It’s generally in my right ear, but sometimes it’s in my left ear. Occasionally both my ears will ache. The only way I can describe it is a sharp shooting pain. It’s almost like someone is stabbing my ear drum. It’s extremely painful.
- Nausea, Vomiting, & Dizziness
When I experience a terrible earache is when I start to feel very dizzy to the point where if I don’t stop and lay down to relax I start to feel myself fall. I’ve never passed out before because I know when I need to sit and just chill. The nausea and vomiting are nasty little symptoms that come along with the earaches. My regular doctor has prescribed me Zofran, which is a lifesaver for nausea.
How I was finally diagnosed:
I’ve known for almost three years now that I have TMJ. In that time I have consistently bothered my doctor by going into his office every month to complain about my headaches. In February of this year is when I started feeling the earaches. And every month after that I kept going into my doctor’s office to tell him my damn ears hurt. In September he FINALLY referred me to an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat specialist).
Well a month later (a whole month went by because Obamacare sucks and everything in healthcare takes forever now), and I’m sitting at the ENT’s office. Who examines my ears and says, “Your ears are perfectly normal.” At this point I started feeling really discouraged, and I wondered if maybe the doctors are starting to think I’m crazy. The ENT looked at me and said, “Do you grind your teeth at night? ”
I told him, “Yes I do. It’s horrible. I have a mouth guard, but that doesn’t stop my teeth from the grinding.”
He then told me he would refer me to an ORAL SURGEON. I’ll never forget when he looked at my face sort of analyzing it and said, “Unfortunately you’re at a disadvantage because of the structure of your face.”
Oh gee thanks ENT. Now by this point I’m starting to wonder holy crap am I going to need surgery to correct my jaw and the misalignment of my teeth.
Visiting the Oral Surgeon:
A month later, and I ended up visiting a well-known Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (Dr. Tomaich) in Davis, CA. I had to answer a lot of questions and had a CT scan of my entire head taken.
When Dr.Tomaich came in he asked me about my history, what kind of symptoms I was having, and he examined my jaw and bite.
Now for those of you who don’t know I had braces when I was 13. I had them on for about a year and half and even wore the rubber bands because I had a pretty bad over bite. I still have an overbite, but not near as bad as it used to be. My wisdom teeth unfortunately came out when I was 17 and pregnant with Neveah. By the time I gave birth and was able to have my wisdom teeth removed my normal teeth had become overcrowded. SO MUCH FOR HAVING BRACES HUH?!
Thankfully the doctor said he DID NOT think I would need surgery. He then referred me to a SPECIALIST IN TMJ.
YES FINALLY A FREAKING SPECIALIST IN TMJ is going to see me next year.
You have no idea how excited I am to finally see a doctor who specifically specializes in TMJ. It literally has me over the moon. I feel like it’s finally a step in the right direction, and I’m FINALLY going to have a solution or at least find ways to manage my TMJ.
I have not yet seen this specialist ( I actually just got the call two weeks ago from the insurance letting me know that my insurance approved the referral). Ever since the healthcare system changed to Obamacare it’s been nothing BUT A MESS. I don’t blame my doctor for taking forever to refer me. I know it’s not his fault. There was a long wait lists to see the ENT, and I had no choice but to wait. It’s kind of crazy to think that I had to see three different doctors before finally getting referred to a TMJ specialist, but that’s Obamacare for you.
Treatments I’ve done so far:
I’ve bought countless of mouthguards. The one I currently have is called the Doctors and I bought it from Wal-Mart. It’s okay. Not the greatest, but I’ve tried countless and out of all of them this one is the best I’ve had so far.I’m pretty positive that the TMJ specialist will have a custom fit guard made for me. I don’t feel like mouth guards are 100% effective, though.
I cut out chewing gum. 🙁 I also tried cutting out caffeine for a while, but it actually only made my headaches worse. I’m prone to having caffeine withdrawal headaches.
I’ve looked into BOTOX. Yeah, seriously. Botox has been approved by the FDA for painful conditions potentially related to TMJ, such as cervical dystonia and migraine.
I’m not sure how I feel about it. I go back and forth on Botox a lot. I want to be able to feel my face somewhat, and I don’t want to look plastic. I also feel like for my age I’m way too young to be getting that type of procedure done ala Kylie Jenner. I’m not going to rule it out though. I’ll try anything once. Who knows I could get it and it could seriously help me.
I’ve also been looking into Ultrasound Therapy and Cold Laser Treatment, but I want to know what the TMJ specialist thinks would be best for me first.
I know the oral surgeon said the right side of my temporomandibular joint is worn down. It’s almost flat. He said he rarely sees that in someone as young as me. He asked me if I had joint pain anywhere else, and I said no. The reason he asked me this is because if I do it’s possible that I could be prone to having arthritis at an early age. He said it’s possible I was born with the joint that way, or it’s most likely due to the excessive grinding which is not good.
I know surgery is not completely out of the woods for me yet, and to be honest I’m not against it. The thought of it just terrifies me. It’s also a very long recovery process it’s not like getting your breasts done. You’re literally going in and cutting up your face and removing teeth and rearranging parts. It just sounds terrifying, and I would rather avoid it.
I will write a follow-up post once I see the TMJ specialist in Roseville, CA. At this point I’m just glad I’ve finally got a referral and am seeing someone whose specializes in this field because TMJ is a nasty little b*tch that I need to defeat.
Disclaimer: Please remember that what works for me might not work for you. Everyone is different and some people might have less or more severe cases of TMJ. This is not meant to diagnose or treat anyone with TMJ. Please talk to your doctor or dentist if you think you may have TMJ. Please talk to your doctor before taking any medications. I mentioned what I was taking and have taken mainly for my own purposes because I keep a headache diary and track all the medications I take.
YOU ARE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR BODY NO ONE ELSE IS. OBAMACARE SUCKS AND YOU HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO TAKE ACTION WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR HEALTH IF YOU WANT ANYTHING DONE YOU HAVE TO BE PERSISTENT.