What is TMJ?
“TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint. There’s one on each side, and they attach your jaw to the bottom of your skull. The muscles near them let you to open and close your mouth. But sometimes, the joints get out of line or don’t move as they should. You might have heard that problem called TMJ, but it’s actually TMD — temporomandibular joint disorder. Up to 15% of adults, mostly ages 20 to 40, have it.” – WebMd
- pain in jaw muscles
- pain in neck and shoulders
- ringing, stuffy or itchy ears
- locking or clicking of joint
- chronic headaches
* I have all of these symptoms and also bruxism, which is clenching or grinding the teeth
In 2013, after explaining to my dentist that my mom said she heard me loudly grinding my teeth many nights in a row, I was fitted for and given an NTI device. The NTI goes over the upper front teeth and is supposed to stop clenching and grinding. I was supposed to wear it only at night, which was a little unsettling because it was pretty small and would easily fall out during the night. In the morning, I would wake up and my front teeth would be extremely sore because of the pressure that was put on them during the night.
By 2016 my jaw hurt even more and it was becoming very tiring to talk for long periods of time. My ears were also getting increasingly itchy. I decided to go see a TMJ/TMD specialist who was a MD and a DMD. I did a lot of research beforehand and believed he would be the best.
During my first appointment, new x-rays were taken, including a panoramic x-ray. He looked at the x-rays and said I had TMD. Nobody had every diagnosed me with TMD before, but I did know it could increase headache frequency, so I was excited to possibly have found a piece of the puzzle.
He then brought up ozone therapy. And this is where I will pause and give you some advice. If a doctor ever offers you a type of therapy/procedure during the first appointment that you have never heard of, don’t do it. Go home, do your research and make another appointment if you decide you want to do it. So, he brought up ozone therapy, which he said had helped 99.9% of his patients. Ozone is a type of oxygen that is injected into the TM joint through the face that promotes healing of damaged tissue.
He did the first injection and it hurt, but it wasn’t unbearable. Then as he was doing the second shot I experienced unbearable pain and began to really cry. I couldn’t talk because a needle was in my jaw, but I looked at him trying to somehow ask if that pain is normal. I was really overwhelmed afterwards and just left the office. He said it would sound/feel crackly for a few days.
Starting the next day I could barely open my mouth, it was so painful and stuck almost shut. The doctor was shocked by what happened and said it had “never happened before”. Since that injection my TMJ pain has been more severe and my jaw on the side of the very painful injection clicks very loudly when I open my jaw.
He also made me an upper teeth splint, which I was supposed to wear for a few months straight, but after the ozone therapy I was too scared and upset to go back, so I didn’t fully of though the splint therapy.
Two weeks ago I saw a new TMJ specialist. She is a DMD. From the first few minutes I was talking with her, I could tell she understood what I had been going through with my chronic migraine and TMJ pain. She was talking about things she thought I had gone through before I even brought them up.
She explained that she doesn’t recommend the top splint because it is very hard to talk with it and because it is so thick that it sometimes shifts the bottom teeth. She recommended I get fitted for a repositioning splint for my lower teeth. I will wear this splint for about 8 months (will only take it out when I eat) and it will reposition my jaw into a healthier position that will alleviate the TMD problems.
She said she believes I will always have headaches/migraine because they started from such a young age, but she thinks my TMD issues are really increasing the frequency and severity of my migraine. TMD/TMJ, neck and shoulder tightness, hyper mobility, migraine…all connected!
I got fitted for the splint today, which involved getting impressions taken and then having a TENS unit on my jaw for 45 minutes to relax it before doing another impression. I will get it in January and I am so excited to see what happens with all of this! I will keep you all updated.
Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments!