T.M.J. can kiss my A.S….you know the rest.

We all have TMJ.  Yours just isn’t broken……or maybe it is.  Part of the reason I’ve been missing other than life being busy is that I am have some issues with my jaw.  Namely osteoarthritis that causes TMJ.

What people call TMJ is actually TMJD or TMD, temporomandibular joint disorder.  Everyone’s got a TMJ, two actually.  It’s the joint that connects your head and your jaw together.  Mine, using the technical term, is all jacked up.  For whatever reason, probably due to teeth clenching, the little disc in between my jaw bone and skull is wonky on the right side and got pushed forward and is protecting nothing.  So my bones are rubbing together, which makes fun crunchy noises and causes headaches, ear pain and has made the nice pretty ball part of my mandible worn down kinda flat.  Yawning hurts, gum is out forever, I have to wear a splint that keeps my jaw apart during the night, I take about 1400 mg of ibuprofen a day and sometimes, when it’s really bad, even making out with Jethro hurts.

All in all, this blows.

I first noticed it when I had some headaches that just would not go away.  They started happening late in the day, so I attempted to get a better glasses prescription.  When that didn’t work and I started waking up with bad headaches, I went to the dentist and got a bite splint that fit over my top teeth and makes me lisp in a OH-so-sexy way.  Finally, I got referred to dentist/doctor who specializes in TMJ and he was like, “Oh.  Yeah, that’s pretty bad,”  when he saw my x-rays.  I’ve already had arthroscopsy, where they stick a stick in your face and then wiggle it around a bit.  (Okay, fine, they do a little more than that.)  It’s the same thing that athletes get on their knees all the time, so it’s not crazy serious surgery.

Except that didn’t work, so I might have to have arthrotomy, which is open incision where they’ll look at my joint and do all sorts of things like tie my articular disc down or round out my fun little flat jawbone.  Gross.

Oh, and did I mention that insurance does not cover any of this?  So we’ve already spent like $8,000 on my face. And will have to spend about that much more if I have more surgery.


On the bright side, this whole jaw pain thing makes for hilarity among my family and friends.  My dad says it’s cause I eat too much (He’s SO going into a home when he’s 75…) my bestie said it’s cause I talk too much and another friend told me it’s because I work too hard at my *ahem* side job on the corner.

There may actually be some truth to that second one…and if you didn’t get the last one, you’re a sweetheart.  The rest of ya are perverts.

Anyway, I want to hear your TMJ stories.  Who has it?  Did you do any alternative therapy, like acupuncture?  Is my liver going to crap out from all the ibuprofen?  I’m already down a spleen, I don’t want to lose any more body parts.  What should be name our TMJ support group?  We can have bake sales and car washes and everything.  (I’d tell you what DDay and I came up with on Twitter, but my mom reads my blog.)

**Image by Nik Ainley

40 comments on “T.M.J. can kiss my A.S….you know the rest.

  1. d-day
    April 18, 2011 at 5:54 am #

    (chuckle for that last bit but) this makes me so sad and angry!! I still don’t understand how something that causes you PAIN isn’t covered by insurance. I think you tried explaining it to me but I’m slow.

    I also did hear recently that taking too much ibuprofen or others like it can be bad – just went to hunt it down and found 2 conflicting ones, awesome! :-/

    this one says these pain relievers increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, http://www.arthritistoday.org/news/nsaids-heart-attack-stroke-risk114.php?WT.mc_id=MBS_02NSAIDHeartProblems

    but THIS one says taking pain relievers regularly reduces risk of colon and rectal cancer http://newswestmidlands.com/cancer-risk-lowered-with-use-of-pain-relievers/522243/

    SCIENCE. AAAH. maybe Nina can help us figure this one out.

    anyway umm appropriate support group names.. how about Jaw Poppers Unite! no? ok I keep thinking..

    • kindofamess
      April 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

      SEE? This is why I’m all wonky with the meds.

      And insurance does cover it, but only up to $1000 lifetime. And it’s not really the fault of the insurance, that’s the rate that Jethro’s company negotiated to get better insurance for their company to cover more common things.
      And the ass part of it is, now it’s pre-existing so I can’t just switch to mine. Boo.

      • Kristy
        April 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

        And this pre-existing BS is why insurance drives me crazy. Pre-existing conditions should not matter.

  2. ElfPuddle
    April 18, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    I get the headaches, and the “really fun” jaw-popping, but my dentist says I don’t have to do anything “yet”.
    I wish you didn’t either.

    • kindofamess
      April 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      Hugs right back! And WHEN does he suggest you do something about it? I’m not a fan of the “wait till it gets bad” thing, but I’m also on super-TMJ patrol lately, so you probably should take me with a grain of salt.
      But I’d get a bite guard if you could, just to off-set the headaches.

      • ElfPuddle
        April 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

        The first we should do something about it is when my headaches get more frequent (weekly), when the popping is either more painful (it doesn’t hurt much, just sounds bad), and when I get insurance. (Job loss is fun, huh?) Like Vee, the pain is closely tied to my stress levels, so I work on that.

        • kindofamess
          April 19, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

          Okay. But I’m going to stand here with motherly concern until I hear you’re feeling better. 🙂

          • ElfPuddle
            April 20, 2011 at 9:52 am #

            Yes, m’am.
            But only if I get to hover over you, too.

  3. M
    April 18, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    I’d LOVE to know if acupuncture works!

    I haven’t done anything about mine, yet. But I don’t really get headaches… jaw-aches, definitely. Mine makes that awful popping (my hubs hates it) will slip and lock open sometimes… brushing my teeth, trying to bite into a hamburger, or… “side job” festivities.

    Hilarious, annoying, and painful.

    • kindofamess
      April 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

      Yikes, if your jaw is locking you might want to get someone to look at that, sweetie. That’s one of the symptoms they tell you to go to the doctor for….

  4. lizzie
    April 18, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    i was all with you until you said insurance isn’t covering it. WHAAA the hell, alyssa?! gah. what the hell is insurance good for anyways? so sorry you have to deal with this…

    • kindofamess
      April 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      I KNOW. It’s Jethro’s employer’s benefits department’s fault. No TMJ, but they’ll pay for smoking cessation programs for everyone in the damn company.
      I quit cold turkey, they should too! Suck it up and pay for my jaw, dammit!!!

      • ElfPuddle
        April 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

        Seriously! What’s up with paying for people to quit smoking? Just don’t pay for smoking-related issues, and tell them to quit. The ONLY successful quitters I’ve ever met did it nearly or completely cold turkey, and because they wanted to, not because someone like their insurance offered to help them.

  5. Ms. Bunny
    April 18, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    I have no TMJ issues, but I just want to send hugs. That must be an incredibly frustrating and painful issue.

    • kindofamess
      April 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

      Thank you very much! It is frustrating, but the sad part is I’m getting used to it. Maybe my pain tolerance is increasing and I’ll be able to pop out a baby and then go dancing afterwards!

  6. Jo
    April 18, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    I get the headaches when stressed from jaw clenching, and then can’t chew or lay on my face, unless I use a heating pad.

    • kindofamess
      April 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

      LADY….be careful with that. Try to avoid it now, otherwise you’ll end up like me. When they did the first surgery, I had to wear a jaw bra filled with ice for a few days. AND my face was swollen up like a chipmunk. A JAW BRA. It is not as fun as it sounds.

  7. Nev
    April 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    I too have been diagnosed with TMJD and Osteoarthritus and bone loss. I’ve suffered for over 9 years but it just gets worse and worse and worse. I am finally seeing a Jaw Disorder specialist which is all he does. I am getting a spint, and going to PT with an orthopedic specialist that specializes in facial issues/jaw issues. I am relieved I have a diagnosis that was half the battle. But now I’m PI$$ED that insurance doesn’t cover it….it is an exclustion. Considered cosmetic. I am going to “Jaw School” in SLC to learn about what I have. I read a great book that my doctor gave me called THE TMJ HEALING PLAN, it is amazing. My dad is a dentist and recommended me to this specialist so I feel I’m in the best of care. Good luck to you!!!

    • kindofamess
      April 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

      Thank you SO much for the book rec, I’ll definitely check it out. And I wish you the best; I definitely know how you feel about being relieved! It was like, “OH. So THAT’S what’s wrong with me. Now we can work on fixing it….”

  8. Sarah
    April 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    So, from my massive experience with ibuprofen … your liver isn’t going to crap out. Doctors have had me on 1600 mg EVERY FOUR HOURS at various times throughout my life (Stupid injuries. Stupid body not wanting to handle anything stronger so I don’t have to take 8 pills at a time.) … and I’m good to go. I can also still take 1for a headache and have it work. Immunity? Pssh, I thumb my nose at immunity.

    Regarding the pre-existing condition thing … you’ve been covered for the last year, right? Then you should be good. Find out what your insurance’s past coverage policy is (mine’s 12 months, I’ve seen it as low as 6 and as high as 24), get your proof of coverages, and THAT problem should be fixed.

    ::hugs:: I hate that you’re still dealing with this.

    • kindofamess
      April 19, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

      Thank you for the reassurance! AND the pre-existing coverage thing, I’m gonna call my benefits department and see what they say….

  9. Vee
    April 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    I have TMJD as well, but it sounds like mine isn’t nearly as bad as yours. I get the popping and clicking, and every once in a while, when I am very, very, very stressed out (read: if I’ve moved to a new town or I’m about to get married) my jaw starts to hurt so bad that I can barely open my mouth. I think it’s related to stress in that I carry a lot of my tension in my jaw, so that makes it extra sore. Delightfully (NOT), the only thing I could do for it is to get one of those mouth guards that cost hundreds of dollars and aren’t covered by insurance. Instead, since mine seems mostly related to stress and less about grinding in my sleep, I figured I would just take up yoga and work on breathing and stress reduction techniques. This has helped. ME.

    So, mine isn’t really impeding my life all that much but I do know how painful and annoying (understatement) it can be, so I feel for ya.

    • kindofamess
      April 19, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

      Dude, pain is pain, so I feel for you too. Although the mouth-guards really are worth it, if you ever get the chance, get one, just to prevent further damage in times of stress. (Totally wearing my mom pants today, sorry…)

  10. ElfPuddle
    April 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    I just had a thought…I also have arthritis, though mine is rheumatoid. Does everyone with some form of TMJD have arthritis, or are we the “lucky” ones?

    • kindofamess
      April 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

      Nah, rheumatoid is autoimmune, so it can affect any joint. Osteo is degenerative, so I think the difference is I got osteo AFTER I had damage, but rheumatoid is a disease that CAUSES damage.
      Yes? Maybe? I might be wrong…

      But rheumatoid is rough. Bless you, honey…

  11. Heather G
    April 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    I know absolutely nothing about TMJ stuff, but I do know about waking up with headaches. Whenever I get a migraine, it always starts in the morning and wakes me up. Hate it. So, I cannot imagine what you must be going through with your pain. I turn into a pill (ha!) when I get a headache once every month or 6 weeks. Keep us posted on how this goes….

    Oh! I do get less frequent headaches now that I started practicing yoga, but I don’t know that it would help with your jaw stuff at all. So, basically I’m useless.

    But I do take lots of IB and I’m still here and so is my liver.

    • kindofamess
      April 19, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

      You are most definitely not useless. And I used to get migraines, so I feel you pain. Rather, I felt it and it SUCKED. Mine were always infrequent, so I was lucky. Plus I had them with the aura, so I got pretty grey sparkles that clouded my vision beforehand, so I knew exactly when I’d get them. It was weird.

  12. Paranoid Libra
    April 21, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    omg i need to tell you my battle with TMJD. I was in high school and went to go eat my cereal in the morning before school. We were out of teaspoons so i had to grab a table spoon. I go to put the yummy cereal carried via spoon into my mouth when it just clinked onto my teeth. I couldn’t get the damn spoon in my mouth and i couldn’t figure out how a table wouldn’t fit at all. I tried to be sneaky to get the spoon in, but to no avail i just slurped up the cereal between my teeth. I honestly thought for a few mins i must have the world’s tiniest mouth.
    I go tell my mom it hurt to chew and i couldn’t open my mouth any wider. She makes me try to open my mouth and all i could get was maybe a 1/4 of an inch. I felt so helpless and broken.
    Then after seeing the dentist was told to go to a chiropractor to get everything popped back into place. The chiro worked wonders, but getting your jaw adjusted hurts like biotch.

    I clench my jaw from stress and also over use in chewing or errrr other activities aggravates it. I haven’t locked up again since, but i still get soreness and pain when the planets aline correctly or im clenching my teeth while trying to figure out how the eff did i manage to forget to pay this bill last month when i swore i paid it.

    Good luck in your battle.

  13. torie
    April 21, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    Hi, I don’t have tmj but have had a couple of slipped discs in my neck so pain and I have met once or twice. I’m in the UK so not sure the tablets are the same but I was on slow release nsaid’s for asking time or what I like to call ‘fancy ibuprofen’ and they gave me something called lanzoprasole to help combat the effects and protect my liver and stomach – could be worth a go? I’ve also found meditation helps me manage the pain. Pain is rubbish! Sending well wishes your way

  14. Jenny- Adventures Along the Way
    April 23, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    That stinks so much. I am so sorry that you (and so many others) are going through this kind of pain. 😦 I had TMJ problems in middle school (a year-long headache, jar popping, etc.) but they gave me braces and that, thankfully, fixed it. I do still hold tension in my jaw quite a bit. My dentist recommended that instead of having those expensive jaw guards made, to buy sports plastic mouth guards from walmart or somewhere. They were less than $5 when I bought one, and you boil it so the wax softens then stick it in your mouth and bite. So it forms to your mouth and lasts a while. Then when you wear through it, they are cheap to replace.

    I hope that your jaw improves soon…

  15. Kristy
    April 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. About the pain, the the insurance, the EXPENSIVE, the yikes. (Insurance has to do something. I mean, really. This isn’t elective surgery. It’s not like you’re trying to get them to pay for new boobs or lypo. I hope your insurance, if they offer better cover than Jethro’s, will ignore the potential pre-existing condition crap and help you out.)

    This makes me think that I should probably actually get my jaw checked out. I’ve had the locked-jaw/I-can’t-open-my-mouth-an-inch scariness happen before (but not in AGES), and my jaw does tend to pop a lot…(Stupid orthodontist. I didn’t have any issues until he made me use those stupid rubber bands. If I require medical attention, do you think I could send him the bill?)

  16. Tiffany (minivan Rx)
    April 27, 2011 at 2:54 am #

    Maximum ibuprofen per 24 hours is 3200 mg. Although you should try aleve (aka naproxen) which is only twice a day because it works longer. Hope this helps.

    • kahlia
      April 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      I saw a neurologist in Spain for migraines once who said I could combine 500mg of naproxen and 1g of paracetamol (acetaminophen). Gotta pay attention (or set reminders in your phone) to when you take them together, though, since the naproxen is every 12 hours (as Tiffany mentioned) and the acetaminophen is usually 4-6.
      Also, in Spain when they prescribe acetaminophen or ibuprofen for extended periods, they usually also make you take a stomach protector (as Torie said they did for her in the UK).

  17. Heather
    April 28, 2011 at 1:35 am #

    I wasn’t told that I have TMJ until I was 26, and going to dental surgeons to talk about having my wisdom teeth removed! I am still shocked that it took that long for someone to tell me to stop chewing gum. Once my wisdom teeth were out, I had a lot less jaw pain (Hot Dentist (TM) told me this would happen because with those teeth gone, my jaw would have less “power” to grind my teeth). I have only chewed gum once in the last 4 years, as it was an “emergency” situation at work, meeting a new sales rep after lunch, and I completely regretted it the next day. My jaw hadn’t had to chew for that amount of time in a long time, at that point, and it was so sore! I’m so sorry that you are having so much pain and I hope that you can get it fixed asap and without having to spend a ton of moola.

  18. Mike
    May 20, 2011 at 2:04 am #

    Hey there

    I stumbled across your blog post by chance. I have been searching the internet high and low for as much information as I can get about TMJ and upon typing ‘my jaw is a mess’ into Google, I found this post.

    I have to tell you, you’re in awfully high spirits for someone with your level of TMJ… and I love it. There’s so much negativity online about the subject and I’ve been feeling very down and depressed lately as I come to terms with my own TMJ. Your post really made me feel better and I love that you just seem to be getting on with things.

    As for my own situation, I’m a 31 year old guy from Sydney and have had a clicking jaw since I was 20 or so… no big deal I thought until a couple of years ago when my ear blocked up on the opposite side to my clicking joint. My mouth started opening to one side and the pain started to set in…

    I started seeing one specialist but I didn’t like his style so I started seeing another guy who is great. I’ve been on orthotic treatment wearing a lower teeth splint during the day and an upper teeth splint at night for the last few months. Truth be told, I don’t think it’s working but my dentist assures me we must stabilise the bite before evaluating the progress and moving to phase 2 treatment. I trust him and hope we can make things a little better cause my blocked ears are doing my head in more than anything.

    Anyway, I’ve had my CT scans and a sleep study done also which show some sleep apnoea and problematic sinuses, which seems to be the cause of the night time grinding. I’m booked in for nasal reconstruction on June 15 to open the airways and stop the night time grinding.

    As far as the actual joints, I don’t know if I’ll get relief from my TMJ. I’m considering surgery, but my dentist doesn’t want me to even think about surgery yet. I just feel helpless and will do anything to fix it.

    It’s funny, I don’t know you and have never read your blog before and here I am telling you more about my situation than even my closest friends.

    Thanks for reading…

    Mike 😉

    • kindofamess
      May 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

      HI Mike!! I’m so glad that this post made you feel better, even a little bit. Your problems sound seriously tough, and I feel so bad for you! I do really like that your dentist is hesitant on surgery; from everything I’ve read, it really needs to be a last resort. Which is why my doctor has been waiting so long with mine. It’s ridiculously frustrating, but hopefully it will be the best thing in the long run.

      And it’s so funny that you commented because I just did a post today complaining about my jaw! 🙂 It’s not fun, but I’m trying to think of it like this: When you get sick and you want to lie down and give into the aches and pains, it’s okay because that’ll speed your healing process. However, with my headaches, me giving in and letting it take over my day doesn’t do much of anything other than let me have a nap. Then, more than likely, I’ll still wake up with a headache, so I’ve decided to be nicer to myself when it hurts, but to not let it take over my day and interrupt life. (Loads of medication help with this process….) I mourned my pain for a while, but now that I’m trying to fix it, there’s nothing much I can do but follow doctor’s orders and go on.
      That line of thinking doesn’t always work, but sometimes I can trick myself enough into thinking that it does. 🙂

      But I hope you’ll stick around! I’m occasionally funny and I post pictures of my dog, who is probably the cutest thing on earth…

  19. Bess
    May 21, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    Wow, your case must be so severe! I also have osteoarthritis and TMJD at the ripe old age of 24. I had such severe pain that I could just no longer chew, I was even having pain with eating a banana at one stage! I still can’t eat any real chewy food, but there is some definite improvement.

    I have had an occlusal splint for 8 months now and that has definitely helped in regards to waking up with headaches and a reduction in bruxism. I used to get them every single day, but now it’s just every so often. I still get a lot of headaches throughout the day, so my specialist TMJ dentist has recommended that I now get invisalign braces to align my teeth which he believes is the reason why I have these issues. So only time will tell how that goes.

    Good luck with your treatment and I truly hope that it reduces your pain significantly if not completely!

  20. shea
    June 15, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    my jaw has been popping ever since i can remember but it never hurt and my mom would just say ew when i showed her and then finally took my to a jaw specialst and i got a little mouth garud to wear at night but its not getting any better its only getting worse. i can barely open my mouth and yawning is so painful and its really hard to eat most things. its the worst thing ever, i wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy!

  21. Emily
    December 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    Hey, I sadly suffer from TMJ problems and it has probably the hardest thing to deal with right now in college. I have had many opportunities to kiss boys, but my jaw cracks loudly every time I open it so I’m too embarrassed to kiss anyone let alone be able to talk to them. It’s incredibly difficult for me to talk because it clicks so loudly and with college bills and insurance not covering it, you can imagine the burden on my family and we cant afford to pay for surgery. I wear a guard at night and take Aleve but nothing has been helping my face/jaw feel better. I honestly just want it all to go away and it really sucks to know that after 4 years with it, it hasn’t. I hate being 18 and not getting to make new friends and have boyfriends with out feeling terrible about my jaw.

  22. courtsmum
    February 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    I have NO idea what to do… My daughter just turned 17. She DEF has a prob with her tm joint… When she bites down I can hear her across the room. Took her to a dentist for a free exam and he said it looked like she might have a ruptured tmj disk. He said she should prob get an mri. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, NO insurance seems to want to get her fixed. Her dental insurance has a SPECIFIC exclusion for tmj. Medical doesn’t want to touch her, wants her to see a dentist, which, again, is NOT covered. I truly don’t understand this bs. This is unbelievably frustrating… I really have no idea how to get her fixed. Isn’t this why we have insurance??? Anyone out there have any ideas?????? PLEASE!!!

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