About a year ago I stopped chewing gum. I haven’t chewed a piece of gum in more than a year! Me, the chronic gum chewer!
Last June I was having excruciating pain on the left side of my jaw. I was under a tremendous amount of emotion and stress.
When I had braces as a teenager I developed TMJ disorder. Not uncommon when you have braces.
Occasionally my jaw would pop, grind, feel “unhinged” and sometimes hurt. But it usually didn’t last long.
My pain last year didn’t go away. My dentist referred me to an oral surgeon.
The oral surgeon unofficially diagnosed me with osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the “wear and tear” arthritis.
Eight months later (long story why it took so long) I saw a specialist dentist.
He ordered scans, pictures, etc.
In June I was diagnosed with Degenerative Joint Disease, a fancy way to say osteoarthritis (of the jaw).
What I found rather interesting at my first appointment when filling out the new patient questionnaire was all the questions about my sleep, which is poor. There is a link between jaw issues and sleep issues. Wow, who knew?
My doctor and I decided to deal with my jaw issues first and if I felt the need to do a sleep study later on I could.
I wear a bottom appliance during the day and at night I wear the bottom and a top appliance with rubber bands. Looks sexy!
Basically this appliance is helping to relax my jaw muscles so that my jaw can move down and forward slightly.
I have been wearing this thing for about three months and things are shifting and moving.
Osteoarthritis is much more common in the knees or hips.
According to Practical Pain Management article titled osteoarthritis of the temporomandibular joint, an unusually large percentage of those diagnosed are women around the age of 35, which is attributed to Gremillion H, Bates R, and Stewart C. Degenerative Joint Disease. Part II: Symptoms and Examination Findings. 1994. 12(2):88-90.
According to WebMD, the cartilage gradually breaks down with osteoarthritis. Cartilage is a slippery material that covers the ends of bones and serves as the body’s shock absorber. As more damage occurs, the cartilage starts to wear away, or it doesn’t work as well as it once did to cushion the joint. … The result is pain when the joint is moved. Along with the pain, sometimes you may hear a grating sound when the roughened cartilage on the surface of the bones rubs together.
Once you lose cartilage you can’t get it back. So the best thing for me is to alleviate the symptoms causing the pain.
I’ve gotten used to wearing my appliance (kinda like a retainer). I have even gotten so used to it that I wear it while teaching yoga classes. Occasionally it alters my speech.
But for the most part it just blends in. And it is just something that is part of my life now.
Here’s to happy jaws!