I’ve been meaning to do this Shade of Shay for a while now. For 99% of you, this won’t mean anything but perhaps there is a person or two out there that might have similar symptoms and this might be beneficial.
Let’s start from the beginning…
When I was 15 years old, I started experiencing severe jaw pain. The pain was so intense that it also caused earaches and pain down my neck. My parents took me to the dentist and then to an orthodontist and I was told that I must grind my teeth at night and therefore have TMJ, so I should wear a night guard (like a plastic retainer) and that should fix things.
Well it didn’t.
So, I went to more doctors.
By the time I was 19, I was on doctor number 10. He was a great guy who wore a cowboy hat and boots every day in his office and lived on a ranch outside of town. He was a certified TMJ specialist and very well respected in our area. He said that yes, I must grind my teeth in my sleep and I just had a really bad case of TMJ. I saw him for weekly appointments to treat my TMJ. He suggested braces might help my pain…so for two years I wore braces.
At 22, I got married and moved to Detroit with my new husband (braces were off!). At this point, I had been wearing a night guard every single night for 7 years. New hubby however, said he never once heard me grind my teeth. I still had pain, I was taking Aleve daily and everyone kept telling me…it’s just TMJ.
About six months into living in Detroit, I was brushing my teeth one night and bumped my toothbrush against one of my teeth…when I went to check out my tooth, it was already grey…it died that fast. Hmmmm…that can’t be good for a 23 year old to start losing teeth.
At this point, I went to doctor number 13 and had my tooth pulled, a root canal and a cap put in the tooth’s place. The doctor said it must be my TMJ.
At this point, I tried acupuncture and the chiropractor as well. I tried everything.
By the time I was a brand new mama to Kensington, I was 27 years old and the pain was really bad. I started noticing that on top of the pain, my gums were receding and the roots of my teeth were showing. I went to doctor number 15 and he suggested I see an oral surgeon that specialized in gum graft surgery…so, I went to see doctor number 16.
In March of 2009, Dr. 16 removed tissue from the roof of my mouth and repaired all of my gums. I had stitches everywhere in my mouth and couldn’t eat for two weeks (only drink). Dr. 16 looked me in the eyes and told me that if we didn’t get to the root of my problem, all of my teeth would fall out.
That will get your attention.
Dr. 16 had two sets of twin girls (God bless him) and said all four of his daughters saw this orthodontist that specialized in weird things like this.
So, I made an appointment with Dr. 17…
…and he changed my life.
Dr. 17, Andrew and I had a one hour consultation…he looked at me when it was over and said some of the most profound things I’ve ever heard:
1. I do not grind my teeth. Ever.
2. I did have TMJ but that was a symptom of my problem, not the problem at all.
3. My tonsils were too big.
4. My big tonsils were making it so difficult for me to breathe that I was placing my tongue in the wrong spot in my mouth and therefore causing my joints to disintegrate and causing me so much pain.
5. I was also slowly ruining my gums by putting this pressure on my teeth and gums and losing my cheek bones and facial structure (because your tongue gives strength to your entire face and firms up your chin, cheeks and facial structure)
He said I needed to do these things and I would be healed forever:
1. Have my tonsils removed
2. Wear braces one more time for two years to get my jaw back in line
3. Have myofunctional therapy with Dr. 18.
I didn’t want my tonsils out (I’ve never been a sick person, never get sore throats or anything like that), I didn’t want braces and I most certainly didn’t want to drive to Dallas once a week and do therapy.
That being said, I met with the myofunctional doctor #18 and with the ENT about my tonsils (Doctor 19) and they both agreed.
I made an appointment to get my braces on, scheduled my tonsillectomy and started myofunctional therapy.
(This pic was taken the week before.)
I was dreading all of it.
I woke up the morning of June 5th ready to be at the orthodontist to get my braces put on at 9:00 am…and the minute my eyes opened, I knew. I knew, knew, knew. I got up, ran to the bathroom, threw up and sat on the floor. I knew I was pregnant.
I took a test (I had one leftover from the infertility days) and voila…braces and a baby on the same day.
On the way to the orthodontist, I called my OB for an appointment…braces at 9:00, OB at 11:00…and guess what? I was already 8 weeks along.
Tonsillectomy postponed until after the baby…which meant myofunctional therapy had to be postponed too. So, I wore my braces and worked on my jaw alignment until I had this guy…
28 years old, new baby boy, a lovely set of braces and lots of therapy in my future.
When Smith was 6 weeks old (and Kensington was 17 months old), I went in and they removed my tonsils. I can’t even tell you how much better I was able to breathe. I had a 3 week recovery from the tonsillectomy and then I had to wait six more weeks before I could begin my myofunctional therapy.
So…there I was, ready to get better.
My first appointment with my myofunctional therapist (Doctor 18) lasted four hours. At the end, we sat at her desk and I asked her on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad was my case? She said 12.
I cried in my car the entire way home.
And then again at home.
Myofunctional therapy is a therapy that teaches your tongue how to behave the way God intended. If you’ve never thought about your tongue before…God bless you. I think about my tongue approximately 500 times a day. The tongue is the strongest muscle in your body and can do an enormous amount of damage. I was assessed by doctors 16, 17, 18, and 19 (who became my little team) and it was determined that the right side of my face was shot. I have no cartilage or joint padding at all. Years of being misdiagnosed and mishandled had done a number on my jaw. My jaw still hurts all the time…not nearly as bad as it used to…but it is a constant pain in my life that never, ever goes away. In all seriousness, my right jaw pops hundreds of times a day.
The doctors concern was not my jaw…it was the damage my tongue was doing to my facial structure.
This picture was taken days before my 25th birthday…as you can see, my teeth don’t touch when I smile, my tongue is ever so slightly poking out between my teeth and my jaws are not even. My face is also more rounded and less angular. These are all repercussions of having my tongue in the wrong spot. They showed me images of what my face would look like if I didn’t get my tongue under control and it was not a good sight.
Here I am at 32…teeth touch, tongue resting on the roof of my mouth (where it should be), jaw still uneven but much improved and my face has more bone structure along with a stronger chin.
This took me three years of myofunctional therapy.
Three years of weekly drives to Dallas to meet with my doctor and daily homework. To this day, I do one hour of myofunctional homework every single morning while I work (because you can’t talk, eat or drink while you’re doing it…typing in the quiet of my home at 5:00 am seems to be the perfect time for me).
I have finally trained my tongue to rest in the proper position and to also be in the proper position while I talk, eat and drink…I’ve trained it so well that it even does it while I sleep (praise the Lord!).
So…I tell you all this because during this ordeal, my friend Sarah started recognizing many of the same symptoms and so she was checked out by my group of doctors too, and last year, braces were put on her, she had surgery with my ENT and also started myofunctional therapy and is doing so well now!! Instead of being misdiagnosed, she is finally getting better too!
If you have jaw pain and feel like even though everyone tells you it’s TMJ, it might not be, I encourage you to get a second opinion and look into myofunctional therapy. If you believe that your tongue is not resting against the roof of your mouth, then I urge you to look into myofunctional therapy as well. It’s a specialized form of speech therapy and available in many areas…you just have to know to go!
These doctors really did change my life. My gums are no longer receding, my teeth are not falling out, my face isn’t losing all of its bone structure and my jaw is feeling so much better than it once did. I am so thankful that finally…Doctor 17 figured out the problem.
This is your random public service announcement from your blogger friend Shay :). Until the 17th doctor, no one ever mentioned my tongue to me. Ever. Or my tonsils. Ever. And these two things were causing all of the problems. If I had known this at 15, I could have avoided the TMJ all along (plus, I would have saved myself a lot of money, pain, frustration and heartache).
And on a completely random note…let’s talk about dinner tonight :).
Tonight is my Beer Cheese Joes!
If you like a Beer Cheese Soup and a Sloppy Joe…you will love this little recipe.