I have lived with TMJ since I was a teenager. It developed while I had braces and unfortunately, I was not intelligent enough at the time to know that my orthodontist had created in me a chronic problem that would last for the rest of my life. As a matter of fact, I remember telling him about the problem and he seriously just shrugged his shoulders at me and essentially told me that these things happen sometimes.
Oh... but for the statute of limitations...
At any rate, I have lived with popping and clicking jaws for more than 20 years now and that has really been the only issue I have had. Until a few months ago.
I began to experience what I first thought was an earache. I went to the doctor, who determined my ears were just fine. My next thought was that I was beginning to have problems with my wisdom teeth.
Yes, America... there are still adults in the world who have kept their wisdom teeth. Mine came in without any problem... straight and true. I even have an extra one for good measure, that has never come through, but makes an appearance whenever an x-ray is taken and all the dentists and hygienists ooh and ahh over it and I feel very, very special. At least for those 30 minutes of teeth-cleaning.
However, before I could get to the dentist to determine if my wisdom teeth were doing me in, I developed almost a numbness in the cheek muscles of the right side of my face. Back to the doctor, who was afraid it was the beginning of Bell's Palsy and therefore started me on steroids and treating me for same.
As long as the steroids were flowing... I was doing fine. However, once the dosage started wearing off, the ache was back with a vengeance. Therefore... back to the doctor I went. I was then referred to an ENT to make sure this was not a neurological problem and the first thing he said upon his examination was.... you guessed it... TMJ!!!
Seriously? I have lived with this for many, many years without actual PAIN. But he likened it to having a trick knee that would just one day go out on you. Then he patted me on the head, referred me to a TMJ specialist (who did not take my insurance and whose 3 hour consultation was going to cost me $250) and sent me on my way.
Just to rule out the wisdom tooth mystery (because I really do like to dabble in my own self-diagnosis - just so when I am right I can point my fingers at the closest physician and do my I-told-you-so dance) I headed to the dentist and determined that my wisdom teeth were just fine (thankyouverymuch - oh you naysayers) and this was indeed a TMJ problem.
My new dentist told me he could fit me for a bite guard that would help me in the evenings, but it would take a few weeks to determine what, if any, my insurance would pay for the cost. (The answer... big, fat NOTHING). In the meantime, I could avail myself of an over-the-counter bite guard from Walgreens.
After standing in the aisle and reading all the labels (and how you were NOT to use them if you have TMJ... Don't.Do.It!) I picked out a brand and proceeded home to boil it and bite down on it and create my own mold.
I used it for a few weeks while I waited to see what my insurance would pay and am now using it in order to save up the money to purchase a real one. (These things ain't cheap, honey!) But the funny part of this story happened a couple of weeks ago. At some point during my REM cycle, I apparently was having nothing else to do with the bite guard because when I woke up in the morning it was not in my mouth.
I had no memory of removing it during the night. I looked around and finally found it hiding out under my pillow.
The next morning, I woke up with it no longer in my mouth... but clutched in my hand.
The last time this happened I woke up and found the appliance was not in my mouth and nowhere could I find it in the bed. It was not on the bedside table. I stripped the bed and it was nowhere to be found.
Because it was on the floor, on the other side of the room.
It is probably a good thing I am still single.