The good news: Tomorrow will be 2 weeks since I got my MORA. I am loving it. I have no shoulder or neck pain. I've only had one short-lived headache instead of a constant headache. With the MORA and my buckwheat pillow I'm sleeping better than I have in a very long time, though there is still room for improvement. I can definitely tell a difference from when it is in my mouth as opposed to out of my mouth. Dr V is pleased with my improvements.
The downside: I'm still getting used to speaking with it in my mouth, but I think I'm lisping less. I have an extremely dry mouth now. It's like my tongue is cotton. Dr V said this is normal. He said a MORA will either "make you flood or make you dry out." Honestly, I prefer dried out. As a teacher I do not need to be salivating uncontrollably. He gave me some Biotene to help with the dryness. We'll see if that helps. I was hoping the improvements would trickle down to my wrists and make my Carpal Tunnel more bearable. If it fixed my shoulder and neck pain, why wouldn't it travel down? My Carpal Tunnel is worse, despite wearing my wrist braces every night. My theory is that the changing weather is what is making my symptoms worse. I have pain, numbness, and an inability to do simple things like hold a mug of coffee to drink from it or hold the phone to my ear for longer than a minute or two. Typing this has been an adventure since my fingers are numb. Driving also gets interesting... I'm really hoping this is a temporary setback and not related to my TMJ. OTC pain relievers remain my best friends for now. Anyway, I digress.
What's next: I'm working on a blog entry about food. I'm compiling a list of things I can and cannot eat, and how it has been changing throughout my journey. I see Dr V in another week. As I wear the MORA, things can shift (sort of the point of the whole thing) and adjustments need to be made. As I write this, I am not wearing my MORA (I just had a snack and haven't yet brushed my teeth). Because I am not wearing it, I find myself clenching and the jaw pain is returning. I'm hoping with continued treatment things will improve. I will certainly continue to blog about my journey. I'd also love to hear from you if you have anything to share!
Thought of the Day: "Improvement begins with I." - Arnold H. Glasow
I started my improvement by visiting my dentist in the first place. God or Fate or Luck was on my side that the dentist recommended to me has a specialty in TMJ dentistry. My pain had become unbearable and I knew I had to do something. I did. The improvements began.
I got my MORA (mandibular orthopedic repositioning appliance) yesterday morning. It was not quite what I had expected. When I looked up photos on the Internet, they all showed the clear plastic part over the bottom back teeth and metal behind the bottom front teeth. My MORA is pink. There is no metal connector. It's all pink plastic. The connector part goes across the top of my front teeth, much like a night guard without covering as much of my teeth. The pink sort of blends with my tongue if you're not staring at my mouth. I have to wear this day and night except when I'm eating or brushing my teeth. I am allowed to drink anything and eat soft foods such as pudding or yogurt with it in my mouth. For all other foods, it must come out (I will have a separate blog entry about foods, so watch for that in the near future).
It makes me sound funny when I talk; I have a lisp. Dr V said this will go away within a few days as my tongue adjusts to the MORA. A few people have noticed it by either seeing it or hearing the lisp and they've said something. Instead of going into the long, drawn-out story of what it is and why I have it, I tell them it's a sort of retainer I have to wear for a little while. They hear the word "retainer" and they need no further explanation. It works.
I can already feel a difference in my jaw from when I am wearing it and when I am not. This may sound crazy but when it is in, there's no headache, no shoulder pain, no neck pain, very little jaw pain, and some discomfort in my mouth (including dryness) as I get used to it. When I take it out to eat or brush my teeth, it feels odd. My mouth/jaw hurt. My neck starts to hurt. Maybe it's all in my head, but that's fine. Maybe it will help keep me on track with wearing it 24/7.
I see Dr V in a week to see if I need adjustments... I will see him 3 weeks after that for a check-up on how well it's working. At that appointment he will also determine if I need to keep wearing it during the day or just at night. I'm expecting to have to wear it 24/7 for a while, so I'm prepared for him to say I have to keep wearing it all the time. However, if it quickly goes to just at night, I will be thrilled.
Thought of the Day: "There are very few people who don't become more interesting when they stop talking." - Mary Lowry
I am hoping to abstain from too much talking until I get more used to this MORA. Maybe then I will seem more interesting to others. ;)
Since my TMJ diagnosis, I have been doing a lot of reading about it. I want to learn everything I can to improve my chances of healing enough to make it comfortably through each day. As part of my research, I have discovered several things. Some of these things I already knew, but some I have learned along the way...
Helpful Tips for researching about TMJ online:
-Don't trust everything you read
-Make sure a site has legitimate and trustworthy sources
-Wikipedia is NOT a good source for anything (personal opinion here)
-If it says "cure", keep going... TMJ cannot be cured; the symptoms can be manageable with the right treatment
-Websites with a .org are typically reliable sources of information, but occasionally you will find a bad egg
-After reading enough different websites, you realize they contain a lot of the same information
-Sometimes talking to other people going through the same thing is the best research you can get
Websites I have found helpful:
- TMJ Hope - I love this site
- LIVESTRONG - A selection of articles about TMJ health, eating, treatments, relief, and more - TMJ Non-Profit - A patient advocacy organization
- JJAMD - Jaw Joints & Allied Musculo-Skeletal Disorders Foundation
- AAOMS - American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
- AAO-HNS - American Association of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
I am sure there are many more sites out there on the information superhighway and as I find credible ones, I will update this post. I am searching for sites with exercises, stretching, yoga, etc that focus on helping people withTMJ. I am also searching for sites with recipes for people who have TMJ (more than the above sites - like TMJ Hope and LIVESTRONG - have on their pages). If you're reading this and have any suggested sites for my list, leave a comment and I will look into it.
Thought of the Day: "You affect the world by what you browse." - Tim Berners-Lee
Well, let's hope that is true. Maybe we can help bring a little more light and understanding to not just TMJ, but to all invisible illnesses/disorders/diseases.
Yesterday my mom treated me to a massage. This was my first time ever getting a professional massage. But this wasn't your ordinary massage. This was a special therapeutic massage that focused on my shoulders, neck, and jaw. Yes, she massaged my whole body but she spent most of the hour on the shoulders, back, and up. It felt amazing. I was so relaxed. Parts of the massage were a little painful (around the base of my skull, my shoulders, and jaw), but she said that's to be expected with the tightness of my muscles. She told me she could tell that I am a clencher because I have very strong muscles at my temples. Hmm, not where I want to have strong muscles. She said my spine was out of alignment, but that was easily fixed with the massage and a couple of painless pops. She showed me where some of my trigger points are located and even how to self-massage certain areas of high tension. She gave me some exercises to do with my jaw (basically some opening and closing of my mouth while rubbing the joint). She said this should help ease some of the tension. Of course she said for me to try not to clench but that is definitely easier said than done. I talked to her about the MORA I'm getting in a few days and she said that should really help because once it starts working in my mouth and jaw, it will radiate down into my neck and shoulders, also helping in my ears too.
I have to admit, I'm quite sore this morning; Ibuprofen is my friend. She had to do some serious deep pressure on my shoulders and neck. She said I would need at least a few more massages to be able to get all of the tightness worked out. Since I can't keep seeing her (she's in WV and I live in MD - 6 hours away) I'm going to try to find a place at home that can do the same kind of massages and maybe make it a monthly treat to myself.
I certainly feel like things are looking up but I'm still in constant pain. At this point I'm just praying my MORA works the way it is intended and will keep my TMJ from getting worse.
Thought of the Day: "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." -Albert Einstein
It certainly was a mystery to me what was so great about a massage. It was a fantastic experience and I am glad to have had it.
Sleep has been quite elusive for me recently. I was diagnosed with insomnia last year. As my doctor explained it, there are two types of insomnia. There's the insomnia most people know; the person simply can't fall asleep. There's a second type of insomnia; the person has no trouble falling asleep but once asleep, the brain does not properly cycle through the stages of sleep. This is my problem. With sleep medication I am able to have a better night's sleep, but I am still tired. All the time. Oh and dreams. I remember lots of dreams. My doctor said this is not normal. She said that while people dream all night long, most people who get a proper night's sleep with either remember no dreams or only one dream. I remember 4-5 dreams just about every night. This means I'm waking up that many times during the night because of my insomnia. Now with the pain and everything else I have going on with my TMJ, I really don't get enough rest. As I've said before, I'm a mess.
Right now I am staying with my parents. My mom often tries out different types of pillows to find the most rest and benefit. I asked her if she happened to have a buckwheat pillow because I had read on TMJ Hope that it can be a good pillow (the pillows listed there are primarily recommended for those who've had surgery, but with my pain I thought it couldn't be bad for me to find one of these to try out). I was thinking my mom had bought one of the pillows on the list: a buckwheat pillow. Mom does have a buckwheat pillow. She doesn't like it, so she let me try it out. I was skeptical. It's very hard. I wasn't sure how it could be comfortable for me to sleep on since just a regular cotton pillow was uncomfortable. I put the heavy pillow on my bed and laid down. Yes, it was hard, but it was surprisingly comfortable. I slept on the pillow the whole night. I slept through the night (a rarity for me). I woke up and my jaw and ears both felt okay - not good but not bad either. My neck was a little sore but I think that might be from the newness of the pillow. I don't remember any dreams from last night. This means I actually slept all night. Awesome! I will be trying out the buckwheat pillow again tonight.
Thought of the Day: "There is only one thing people like that is good for them; a good night's sleep." - E. W. Howe
I saw my dentist today for my impressions. I hate impressions. He also took a form of x-ray where I had to bite down as hard as I could several times on this thin film. The x-ray shows him where teeth are and are not making contact, as well as how hard. He said my numbers are not where they are supposed to be. My molars are taking about twice as much of the pressure of biting as is normal. He said the MORA should help with that too, as it is adjusting my teeth and jaw. After he did this x-ray, Dr V told me it was time to do the impressions. I told him I hate impressions and they make me gag. He said if I didn't hate them I wouldn't be normal.
He had to do a lower and an upper impression. If I haven't already made it clear, I hate impressions. Just the thought of it makes me want to gag. So he mixed the powder part with the liquid part and began to fill the lower tray. The sticky goo was this really pretty peachy-pink color. I asked him if it was peach flavored gook. He laughed and told me it's not flavored, but it would be nice if they could do that.
The bottom impression went very well. Dr V did have a bit of trouble getting the tray into my mouth, but I have a very small mouth (he used the kid trays on me). I didn't gag, my eyes didn't water, and it didn't hurt my jaw. I was happy. I was thinking to myself that maybe I could handle this after all. As I picked out the little pieces of gook left in my mouth by the bottom tray, Dr V prepared the top tray. Again, he had trouble getting it in. Then he pressed it up to the roof of my mouth. He held it in place. It was horrible. I gagged several times and my eyes began to water. I stared at the wall and kept telling myself just to breathe and that it would be okay. After what felt like an eternity, he took out the tray. Both impressions looked great, he told me. I thought, "Thanks God" because I wasn't sure I could do that again. After I cleaned up a bit, he asked me to open my mouth as wide as I could. Although it was painful, I did it. He used this little card to measure the opening of my mouth. He asked me if I really had it open as wide as I could. I nodded. He told me to close my mouth and said my opening was very small. He said I'm at a 30 and most people are around 50. Hmmm. So yet another thing with my mouth/jaw is wrong. Awesome.
My appointment ended after that. Even though I had been tortured, I left feeling good. I had made it through the worst part. Now I wait for my next appointment so I can get my MORA. My appointment is a week from tomorrow. I was told my MORA will be in by Wednesday, so I should come in on Thursday. However, I am out of town Thursday. In fact, I left right after my appointment to go on my vacation.
While driving today, I listened to an audio book. Normally I would sing to my favorite CDs but I didn't think it would be a good idea with all of my jaw pain. Plus I have read somewhere (maybe someone else's blog or maybe on TMJ Hope) that it isn't good to do anything like that for long periods of time. It was actually really nice listening to the book. I happen to enjoy audio books. Today's selection was 7th Heaven by James Patterson. I almost got through the entire book and it made my drive seem a lot shorter.
Anyway, I digress.
Thought of the Day: "Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect." - Margaret Mitchell
I certainly didn't expect to have TMJ or all that comes with it, but I am searching for a positive... When I find it, I will share.
Second Thought of the Day: "It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars." - Richard Evans
I have an appointment with my dentist ( we'll call him Dr V) on Monday. Recently I was diagnosed with TMJ (TemporoMandibular Joint Disorder). Dr V will take impressions of my teeth so I can be fitted with a type of splint called a MORA (mandibular orthopedic repositioning appliance). The purpose of the splint is to pull my lower jaw (mandible) forward so it will fit with my upper jaw. The crazy thing to me is that Dr V thinks my TMJ may have originated from the shifting caused my my braces. He told me I should have never had braces. My teeth were straight before braces but my orthodontist wanted to move all of my teeth forward so there would be room for my wisdom teeth. I no longer have my wisdom teeth. Dr V said if they had just pulled my 12 year molars, the teeth would have moved on their own, allowing my wisdom teeth to come in and I might still have them. Apparently my braces moved my upper jaw without moving my lower jaw and now they do not fit properly. This lack of alignment causes problems in my head, neck, and arms. It seems as though I've had TMJ for a long time and it was only recently that it got to a point where I needed to seek treatment. I am hoping the MORA is my answer. I am in almost constant pain - in my jaw, a constant headache with some dizziness and vertigo-like symptoms, neck and shoulder stiffness/pain, and arm pain that affects my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I'm popping ibuprofen as often as allowed (per dr recommendation). I have insomnia but now it is much worse and sometimes it even hurts just to lay my head on the pillow. The insomnia might explain why I am wide awake at 2 am. Oh and as far as eating goes, yeah that's not fun at all. I am having to eat soft foods and take small bites. Chewy and hard foods are totally out of the question. Anything that makes me open my jaw wide is also out of the question. Yawning is excruciating. Even having my teeth cleaned recently was difficult (thank God my hygienist was more than understand and gave me plenty of breaks). So many things going on in my body make sense now because they are associated with TMJ in some way. I'm glad it's not affecting anything below my fingers - I have osteoarthritis in both knees that is currently under control and I don't want that to change. Yeah, I'm a mess. I'm 31 but I feel like my body is much older.
I don't think people realize just what TMJ does to the body and the person who has it. For some, TMJ is serious enough to require surgery - total joint replacement. I am praying I won't have to have surgery. If you're curious about the invisible illness called TMJ: comment here or visit www.tmjhope.org.
Thought of the Day: "There’s a story behind every person. There’s a reason why they are the way they are. Think about that before you judge someone." -Anonymous