We all know family and friends who’ve experienced TMJ symptoms. There’s the clicking, the achy jaw, even occasional migraines. I’ve just finished treating a patient who came to me from St. Lucia. She had one of the most severe cases I’ve seen in recent years.
Dawn worked in a dive center on her Caribbean island, and was an underwater photographer. After months of trying to ignore the problems and the pain, Dawn got to a point where she could not keep the dive regulator in her mouth for more than 10 minutes at a time. Essentially, she could no longer work. She had switched to a purely liquid diet – smoothies and soups – because it had become too painful to chew. Dawn could no longer smile, had trouble talking with friends, and suffered from migraines. She shared she was living in a constant state of pain. No one need live like that.
On her first visit to my office, it was clear she was suffering from an extreme case of TMJ. The temporomandibular is a very complicated joint, responsible for moving the lower jaw forward, backward and side-to-side. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working is classified as TMJ. There are biological causes of TMJ, but behavioral and emotional issues contribute to the severity of the condition. Repetitive actions like teeth grinding, gum chewing and eating hard foods contribute to the problem. Stress is also a main culprit.
For Dawn, we immediately began massaging the area to alleviate chronic symptoms. I made a specially fitted dental splint – or appliance – for her to wear each night. I instructed her to follow a set exercise plan for facial muscles, and I encouraged her to add mediation and other relaxation techniques to her daily routine. I’m pleased to report that after four months, Dawn is at work diving again. She’s eating real food, and has resumed her busy social schedule.
Let me underline, TMJ can send your life into a tailspin. There’s no need to live in constant pain. Please come and see me. We’ll beat TMJ in a matter of visits.