Quick notes about TMJ

Midday Escapades asked me about TMJ and so I thought I'd write a post detailing what I know about TMJ and what to do if you have it.

I have had TMJ for over 12 years now and if I could pin point it (which sadly I can't) I would have to say I got it way back when I was in high school and had my braces on. I had this orthodontist who gave me a retainer that when I bit down on it, it helps to close the gaps in my teeth faster. And I would do anything to make my braces come off faster. You would not believe the amount of time and energy my fifteen year old self spent clenching my teeth together.

TMJ Is defined as follows by TMJ association -
  • Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorders (TMJDs), commonly called TMJ, are a collection of poorly understood conditions characterized by pain in the jaw and surrounding tissues and limitations in jaw movements. Injury and conditions that routinely affect other joints in the body, such as arthritis, also affect the temporomandibular joint. People diagnosed with TMJDs may be experiencing other symptoms and medical conditions as part of a broad multi-systems illnesses that go unrecognized.

It took me almost an entire two years to get my TMJ under control the first time I was able to find THE BEST specialist in the SW. I used everything in conjunction to be up to par. As long as it is manageable I am happy.  I wear my mouth splint (see below) every night without exception (I will admit paying $500 out of pocket helps motivate me too). I used anxiety medication which I was very wary about at first, but since stress was my main trigger it was a good decision. My TMJ dr also recommended a good pain management dr for trigger point injections. At one point I was having over 16 put in my neck and back every week. (very painful, but worth it) I mixed chiropractic care with massage and physical therapy. I used a TENS machine, heat and ice and lidocaine patches. All of this was done over the course of two years. Each in different waves, but it took over nine months to really start feeling normal good again. I journaled every day giving scales of how I felt pain-wise in all parts of my body, what meds I took, what I ate, etc. In order to keep my costs down, I did all my physical therapy at home. My specialist did everything he could to work with the insurance company to figure out ways to code it so I could have some of it covered. I also outsourced very little because when I did, I noticed almost immediately that the person was clueless. Most drs have heard about TMJ, most have read about it, but VERY FEW actually know what they are talking about. Most drs will make it worse. Get the best, it's SO worth it.

Sadly I got in a major car accident just six months after I was finally feeling better, but again with my pain management dr I was able to get back up to par in about four months.

Triggers for TMJ are as follows -
  • sugars - foods like carrots, corn
  • white flour - yes, switch to wheat or better yet, make your own foods; go gluten free if poss
  • stress - teeth clenching and/or grinding
  • accident creating the effect
Here's what I have learned in my extensive research and doctor visits.
  • Get the BEST TMJ specialist you can find
    • Do  your research here
    • then have them recommend a dentist, pain management (if nec) and physical therapist (again if nec)
  • Splint - have a mouth guard or splint made for your teeth 
    • do not have this made by the dentist; you'll probably have to pay out of pocket unless you
    • are one of the special people who live in a state where TMJ is considered a real diagnosis and covered my insurance
    • use denture cleaner to rinse it (baking soda is good too) and whenever I visit any kind of mouth dr I bring my splint and have them clean it
  •  Foods - the TMJ specialist will give you a meal plan with food to stay away from
    • certain foods will increase the pain and popping in the jaw
    • I knew a girl in college who opted for the jaw surgery where they sew your jaw shut. She chose to go completely sugar and flour free, making all her food from scratch.
    • cut your food up into smaller pieces; stay away from extremely gooey foods like peanut butter, carmel, gum; 
    • when I need sugar I usually drink apple juice because it gives me the feel of a major sweet, but it is still good for me though I am a sweets girl
  • Exercise & Posture
    • posture is very important to the functionality of your jaw. I had a physical therapist who taped large X's on my back with tape that required I sit up straight. Every time I tried to slouch it would pull.
    • Exercise is important. Stretching is key. Spend 10 minutes a day 2xs a day just stretching. Get some really good DVDs. I like Yoga for stress relief DVD. But I LOVE Michelle LeMay's Spirit Flow Rejuvenating Core Stretch. She is really good and I just love her DVDS. I would love to get more of her stuff.
  • Get a partner
    • If possible have someone close to you, who isn't afraid to move your neck in weird positions, come to your pain management appointments to learn how to stretch your body. This will lower your bills and help your progression because it will help you to do this more than just at your dr appt. 
I will tell you, though you should listen to your doctor, but I wouldn't recommend surgery simply because I have heard not great things, most important it may not help and it may actually create more pain. I think it depends on your type of TMJ.

TMJ is not a thing that can be fixed quickly or permanently. It is learning to LIVE WITH TMJ. It is being able to get TMJ under control and then keeping close watch on how your body is doing.

I can feel 100% and after one night of sleeping weird, I can put myself right back into a bad situation. It is very important to stay focused on how you are feeling, what is hurting and from where. You know your body best. Listen to it.

Please feel free to email me to discuss further at heavenisabookstore@gmail.com


Anonymous said...

I cannot thank you enough for this post. I'm going to keep a copy of it for future reference. I just got a night splint from the dentist and the oral surgeon has prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine and prescribed physical therapy.

I thought that I would go for surgery and braces, but now I may try these things first. I had no idea about the food triggers. Thank you so much for posting this!!!


heavenisabookstore said...

Glad I could help. I will be making a separate page for TMJ with this info. So you can reference it anytime. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions. I would be happy to help in any way I can.

jayayceeblog said...

That's a lot of good information on TMJ ... sounds painful!

ilovepink1078 said...

I afraid of this. Anyway, thanks for sharing and this very informative post.