Sunday, 14 April 2013

TMJ, Braces, and Dreams Come True

My jaw first locked up when I was 21 on the eve of the first major program I had ever run.  I was advised to see a dentist but was also advised that registered massage therapy and time could heal the pain.  I opted for the latter since I didn't have coverage then and didn't want to go broke fixing a problem that time could potentially heal.  Unfortunately, time loosened my jaw but it never stopped the pain.

Three years later, I awakened one morning to find myself with limited range of motion for my head; any move I made put my neck into spasm.  It was constant whiplash.  I was diagnosed with torticolis and was told that it was my posture while sleeping, and stress.  I was told to get registered massage therapy and to destress.  The clicking worsened and I noticed a physical change in the position of my lower jaw.  It had shifted to the right.

Later that year, the migraines started.  I couldn't find the trigger.  Accordingly, I could not determine a treatment.  I stumbled upon the diagnosis really by accident.  My mom suggested that I go see a Filipino dentist whose office was downtown.  I visited to discuss dental and orthodontic work, but what I stepped out with was a set of x-rays, explanations for failed motor skill tests and a diagnosis for TMJ.  It turned out that I had a rare overbite and tooth rotation combination that was creating and worsening my TMJ.  In layman's, my tooth alignment progressively caused my jaw joint displacement.  Registered massage therapy and time were never going to heal this problem.

Treatment entailed wearing a daytime and a nighttime mouthguard.  They were designed to prevent the pinching of the nerves that run through my jaw joints.  The idea was that wearing them would reopen the space that should exist between the upper and lower mandible, and that slowly being weaned off them would create a stable jaw that didn't require a prosthetic to prevent the pinched nerve.  Once that happened, I could get orthodontics not for aesthetic purposes, but to help to realign my bite so as to prevent this going forward.

Anyway, years of pain, discomfort, planning and execution have brought me here: 30 years old with braces! To boot, I have these things called biteturbos affixed to the back of my top front teeth which is preventing my upper jaw from touching my lower...  Until my jaw begins to realign, I will not be able to chew anything.  My orthodontist said that the average length of time required to wear the braces is 2 years.  Here. We. Go.

My nightguard was molded around my teeth.  When I wore it, I would dream that they were braces, and that my teeth were realigning, so that every morning, I awakened disappointed by the reality that they were instead being carefully held in place. Yes, braces hurt and being unable to chew anything puts a damper on my dining habits, but now when I dream my teeth are realigning, it's because they are.  2 years?  5 years?  More?  It doesn't matter.  I'll take it over unending migraines, and compromised motor skills any day.

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