My TMJD Story
It started with a chipped tooth…
So, how did this massage therapist get into rooting around in people's mouths? Is she crazy? Sadistic? A wanna-be dentist? Nope. It began with a chipped tooth.
I'm sure most, if not all, of us have nervous habits that pop up from time to time. Mine involves biting my nails. Yuck! There was one day in 2006 where my seemingly insignificant habit had a significant effect. I chipped one of my front teeth. So, I went to my dentist. She asked me how I had chipped my tooth, and I reluctantly told her. Her response? "No, that doesn't happen. Let me check on something." She proceeded to ask me about jaw clicking, headaches, and teeth clenching, and performed a variety of assessments on my jaw. Thus, my TMJ disorder (TMJD, or TMD) adventure began.
My dentist recommended a specially-molded night guard that fit snugly over my lower teeth. I decided to ignore her advice until my jaw locked shut for an hour about a year later. Ahem. The night guard was built up higher in the front, which kept my molars from contacting each other and essentially allowing the jaw muscles to relax a bit (or not tighten as strongly). I was to wear it every night. Yes. Every night. While it certainly alleviated the headaches and jaw tension, along with keeping my teeth intact, I despised that thing! It is not even remotely comfortable, but I wore that stinking night guard for nearly a decade.
Fast forward to late 2015. I found a course on intraoral massage. How interesting! I had never had the work done, but I was intrigued. I tried to keep an open mind, but that was difficult after years of wearing the dreaded night guard and failed attempts at TMJ-specific exercises that I had found on the internet. I would say I approached the class with a healthy dose of pessimism...but I had to try.
My initial reaction to two days of intraoral work was not entirely positive. I was very sore! Of course, receiving intraoral work in a clinical setting would not involve hours of work over the course of a weekend, so I gave it a few days (and, admittedly, some ibuprofen). Within days, my pessimism turned to joy and excitement. No headaches or jaw soreness! That horrible night guard? I haven't seen it since I brought it with me to the workshop. Nearly six months later (as of the time that this was written), I have only had to spend a couple of minutes maybe three times working on my jaw.
In a nutshell, intraoral massage can be an effective holistic treatment for TMJ disorder. It sure beats the barbaric night guard!