My Fate Has Been Sealed

As some of you know, I’ve been going to the orthodontist for about 3 years now for TMJ.

TMJ can mean different things for different people, but for me it’s like this:

My bottom front teeth hit my top front teeth when I close my mouth, but they hit just SLIGHTLY behind my top front teeth.

When I bite tight, my bottom teeth are forced to slip behind my top front teeth because of the angle, but they don’t really fit back there.

Because they don’t fit, the slipping forces my whole jawbone BACK, where it jams into the cartilage of my jaw and causes pain and tense jaw muscles.

Then the pain shoots straight up to my temples and becomes a mega-headache.

WHEE!

I’ve been going to Dr. Gary Chapman (orthodontist, not Five Love Languages author) since March of 2005, and it’s been a long, slow, sometimes painful road. But it didn’t take long for the headaches to disappear and for the jaw pain to become minimal. When I started my treatment, I was having massive headaches about 5 days a week. Needless to say, my treatment was a huge relief.

After a year in a “jaw splint” (it looked kind of like Invisalign for my top teeth) and 1 1/2 years in braces, I finally got the braces removed a few months ago. It’s been so nice to have my smile back!

But things have rapidly gone downhill.

It wasn’t long after the removal of my braces that I started to notice some jaw stiffness. The stiffness became discomfort, which became occasional pain. The the pain started creeping up. I’ve had headaches every day for the past 2 weeks.

I went in today for an appointment to figure out what was wrong. Dr. Chapman was the least positive he’s ever been.

He said that people’s mouths change over time, and while some people’s teeth grow better, my teeth seem to naturally grow worse. He said he’s seen a few women like me over the years, and the results have been frustrating and sad. While he hopes to keep the discomfort lower than it was before the treatment, he doesn’t think that I will ever be totally pain-free.

So there you have it. I have a chronic pain condition that is expected to last the rest of my life.

I alternate between being okay with this and feeling devastated. I think we all aspire to being perfectly healthy, and we take for granted that perfect health is achievable if we ever decided to work hard enough at it.

It’s hard to let go of that ideal.

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