Help me summon the courage to get my jaw/tooth/bite/TMJ problems sorted out.
December 30, 2009 9:46 AM Subscribe
Help me summon the courage to get my jaw/tooth/bite/TMJ problems sorted out. More inside, of course.
posted by toomuchkatherine to health & fitness (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
YANMD, but your experiences and encouragement could help me. The backstory: I had braces as a teenager, but did not wear my nighttime appliance properly, so my teeth shifted back a bit over the years. Several years ago, I developed a pain near my back left molars. I'd had a root canal in one of these molars during college, and wear a crown there. I went to my dentist at the time, who told me that my bite was unbalanced. He had me bite on the red paper and ground down my teeth a little on that side at what he deemed to be the high points. Regretfully, this actually happened a couple of times. My problem didn't get better, and I later decided that he was kind of a quack, or at the very least a creep. Time passed. I developed the symptoms of mild to moderate TMJ: persistent aching on the left side of my mouth, some clicking and popping, pain occasionally radiating up to my ear. Another dentist told me that I grind or clench my teeth at night, and made me an NTI device to fit on my bottom teeth, which I wear most nights. I think it helps, but it definitely hasn't totally made the pain go away; also, I think I've figured out how to clench a bit on the device itself. Recently, my current dentist, who I think is a good guy, replaced my crown: it didn't go quite all the way up to my gumline, and he thought it should. Either the new crown doesn't fit perfectly, or I'm having an unrelated flare-up of pain, but things have been particularly bad the last couple of weeks, and I've resolved to get things fixed as much as possible in the new year.
The thing is: where to start? I'm generally scared and mistrustful of dentists, and the last few years haven't helped much. I got in touch with my dentist and will ask him to make sure he thinks the new crown is fitting properly; he mentioned that they sometimes need to be adjusted. Should I go to an orthodontist? The bite on the left side of my mouth is, without a doubt, messed up. (I've been told it's an "open bite" -- my teeth don't meet in all the places they should.) Has anyone had good results with braces for this kind of a problem? I'm willing to do them if they'll help. Should I see a physical therapist? An osteopath? Is there another solution I'm not thinking of? I have a lot of dental fillings in my back teeth, which have had to be redone over the years (my hunch is that nighttime clenching/grinding weakened them), and I think part of the problem may be that they were not contoured well and are contributing to the bite problem. Has anyone had an experience like that?
Basically, I fear dentists and I fear this problem and I fear attempted solutions that only make the problem worse, but this pain, which I think is TMJ, has been cutting into my quality of life significantly enough and for long enough that I think the time has come to make a stand. Help me make it a smart stand.
I am in NYC, if anyone has had experience with specific practitioners.
Thanks so much.