So I’ve completed my third visit in search of answers for my TMJ situation. While I’ve had TMJ issues my entire life, they haven’t really bothered me. I’ve always been able to “unlock” my jaw when it went out — until about six weeks ago. At that point my jaw got stuck to where it only opens about 60 percent. Nothing to this point has been able to “unstick” it.
I’d put off seeing this particular specialist because he doesn’t take my insurance and TMJ solutions are expensive even for providers who are in network. However, after meeting with him (and having my third set of 3D X-rays taken), I finally have confidence that I’ve found someone who understands the situation and has the answer.
Except I don’t want the answer. I want a magic solution. Or even someone to come by with a good right hook and sock my jaw into place (or submission).
The answer is total replacement of both jaw joints. I’ve included a picture of what the prothesis looks like. There’s a piece that screws into the skull between the cheekbone and the ear and a second piece that replaces the end of the jaw bone and screwed in along the jaw. I didn’t include pictures of what the surgery scars look like. I’d basically look like I had my throat cut from ear-to-ear and have slash marks in front of both ears.
Heaven knows I’m not afraid of surgery. I’ve already had five joint replacements and two separate spinal fusions as well as a raft of soft-tissue surgeries. But I really, really don’t want this. I think part of it is that I’ve already been through so much that thinking about facing yet another massive surgery it just more than I can stand.
It happens at some point where you question whether the cure is worse that the disease. And “worse” can mean anything from side effects to emptying the bank accounts to pay for it. In my case, my jaw doesn’t hurt most of the time. I just can’t open it very wide. So yawning and even eating something like a sandwich are both pretty much impossible and ARE painful. There may very well be a point where things get painful enough (or simply inconvenient enough) that things rebalance in favor of doing the surgery.
But that day is not today.
In the meantime, the doctor recommended (and I agreed) that some physical therapy might help. He recommended a great therapist who specializes in this area and speaks to medical audiences regularly on PT for TMJ issues. That being said, we know the joint has arthritis and has degenerated. So while PT might help the immediate problem, it’s inevitable that I’m going to wind up in the same situation again in the future. The joints just can’t work like they are supposed to. Even so, the therapist can’t see me for almost another month so I’m in limbo until then.
So many people have such worse problems than I do I feel a bit self-involved even discussing this. This may be the universe’s way of telling me I really shouldn’t be eating double-stacked bacon cheeseburgers anyway. (I really don’t but I do enjoy the occasional NYC bagel.)
I hope that you don’t have any problems but, if you do, I hope they all have easy answers. Thanks for checking in.