Tuesday, July 03, 2012

TMD Ponderings

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw. These disorders are often incorrectly called TMJ, which stands for  temporomandibular joint.

What Is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side and enabling you to talk, chew, and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control the position and movement of the jaw.

I've suffered from TMD since I for nearly 30 years now.  And I've researched and tried a few things to try to help...

I believe that the beginning of my problems began when I got braces on my teeth.  I had some pretty weird stuff going on in my mouth and my mom wanted my smile fixed.  She shopped around for a while to find an orthodontist who was willing to even try to fix my mouth because I was too young.  See back then they normally didn't start orthodontia until a kid was in their teens and I was only 9.  Part of my messed up mouth was that I had buck teeth and a pretty bad overbite.  So bad in fact that my lower teeth when my jaw was closed lined up with the back of my upper pallet.  So for the first part of my treatment, the doctor wired all my upper teeth together and fit my back teeth with bands that would hold a neck gear.  This in part took care of my buck teeth (I had some other stuff done too, including oral surgery), but it didn't really line up my bite the way the orthodontist wanted.  So he decided to fit me with a mouth appliance that he came up with himself.  To make this appliance he had me hold a pencil in my mouth straight upward...so my lower jaw was pulled forward in front of my upper teeth.  I had to wear this thing at night with a head gear.  And yes, I drooled all over the place!  Luckily I only was tortured by this for about 6 months or so.  I am still not sure if this was because I was done with treatment or because my parents ran out of money to pay for it.

Fast forward to 17 years old.  And I wake up my jaw locked.  It won't open, it won't close.  Luckily my jaw eventually popped and worked so that I could eat and stuff.  But now I began my journey with a lovely popping jaw that still plagues me to this day.  My mother finds another orthodontist who says I have TMJ (what they called it at the time) and he decides that the best way to fix my jaw is to push my lower jaw back to it's original position.  He fits me with a mouth piece (that he made out of red plastic that they normally use to make retainers with) that has dents in it that match my lower teeth...to push my lower jaw back.  (I looked like I was constantly sucking on a red Jolly Rancher candy!)  My second bite plate I begged for clear plastic instead...and for that one he had me hold a pencil in my teeth pointing down!  After my jaw had supposedly been fixed (it still popped, but it didn't lock up anymore) the orthodontist wanted to fit my mouth with full braces and pull my lower jaw back forward to line up my bite again.  Since I was almost 18 and almost not covered my my parents insurance anymore AND the entire treatment made no sense to me, I declined to have it done.

Now we go to when I'm 27, I went into the doctor because I was having severe ear pain and thought that I might have an ear infection...even though I did not have any kind of fever.  Seeing no fever the doctor puts his fingers in my jaw joints and asks me to open my mouth...POP!  He diagnoses me with TMJ and sends me to see an oral surgeon.  This doctor decides to treat me with "muscle relaxers" at night to keep me from grinding my teeth and during the day I was supposed to do "biofeedback exercises" to make my body aware of my clenching.  My treatments went until my doctor was sent to a new base...and we were soon sent to another base right afterward.

A few months ago I noticed that my TMD was bothering me and that my jaw's alignment was such that I couldn't close my jaws together to eat properly.  It was fun eating soft foods so that I didn't choke on anything.  I started researching to see what the current treatments are as I knew that some treatments in the past for TMD had been utter failures.  I also did a quick check of my insurance coverage...guess what, neither our medical or dental insurance will cover ANY kind of treatment for TMD at all.  WHY?  Because doctors are still baffled as to how to treat TMD so insurance doesn't want to pay for any experiments.  Hummm they should look at my history. :p

I'm writing this because two days ago my right eye started twitching...it was becoming very bothersome and I couldn't figure out the cause.  I was talking with some friends and mentioned that the last time this happened it was when I was getting treated for my TMD with medication.  I thought the twitching was a side effect of the medication, even though my doctor said that eye twitching wasn't a side effect listed for that medication.  I haven't been on that medication since 1996, so I knew it wasn't the medication causing the eye twitches this time.  Then I went to rub my jaw and noticed the pain in my joint... ut oh!

Last night after having jaw pain and eye twitches for the past few days I decided to try taking a muscle relaxer.  (I have some left over from another problem)  I took just half a pill as a whole one will knock me on my butt pretty hard.  And that took care of the eye twitch...but I have been awake for 7 hours now and I'm still hung over from this stuff.  So I don't think that will be an effective treatment for me.  Bummer.

time for more research!


  1. I've had problems with my jaw and teeth, so I know how frustrating and annoying it can be. You'll probably find better answers on your own, rather than through the conventional way.

  2. A muscle relaxer?? STELLAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

    My sister has/had this. Thought she was going to have the surgery where they break your jaw, but they wound up doing some other/less drastic procedure.

    1. They're finding that surgery is actually not a good treatment because the muscles still clench causing the new joint to break. I'm glad they didn't do that for your sister. I used to work with a woman who did have the surgery and she lost a ton of weight because she couldn't eat solid food for months afterward.