TMJ: a total PIA

I have never been officially diagnosed with TMJ. I’m just assuming that the term applies to the condition I experience every few years or so wherein sitting in one place longer than 20 minutes makes want to rip my jaw out and stomp on it. I keep moving it around, trying to get it to fit together in a way that will stop the dull pain that spreads into my cheeks and face.

After the last miserable episode of this during a layover at the airport, which found me contemplating how one goes about locating strangers willing to share their prescription opiates, I looked TMJ up online. The TMJ page on Sandy Simmons’ Connective Tissue Disorder site mentioned magnesium, so I added that to my daily regimen. I also began doing this yoga stretch, but holding a yoga block between my hands and pressing into it. I think I also took vitamin B12. It stopped bothering me after a week or so.

In the meantime, thinking that my less-than-movie-star-quality teeth alignment was one of the contributing factors, I visited an orthodontist who specialized in adult braces. He took X-rays of my jaws and spent an hour with me discussing them and different treatment options.

His explanation of why teeth misalignment happens made a lot more sense to me than the “it’s genetic” line everyone else throws at you. He said that breathing with your mouth open, as people with allergies are wont to do, puts your tongue in a different place than when the mouth is closed. Tongue placement influences the way your teeth grow and shift. Mine definitely lean in a bit, although in a very tidy and straight way thanks to two years of orthodontia. When my teeth bite down they’re not actually crown to crown but bottom-outside-edge to top-outside-edge. Which causes shocks to the enamel, which travel upward and cause damage that results in my gums receding, among other things.

He described a process whereby a digital model of my mouth would be taken, some sort of device would be fitted, I’d occasionally come in to have the device adjusted, and after a year my teeth would be aligned more optimally.

I don’t actually remember what he said about the TMJ connection. I don’t remember much of anything that happened after I heard the $4,200 price tag, which was not covered by insurance and was not even remotely a possibility for me. But at least the appointment was free and the information interesting.

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