I wish you could have seen the look my doctor gave me when I asked, “so did I get this by talking too much?” I wasn’t trying to be glib, at that point I honestly didn’t know what I had done to aggravate my TMJ. As far as I know I don’t grind my teeth, I really couldn’t think of anything I had done to hurt myself. I didn’t chew gum very often (once or twice a week?) and I hadn’t had anything overly chewy (it’s been nearly twenty years since I’ve had octopus.) As for clenching, isn’t that something that people do when they’re really stressed out or angry?
Well it turns out that clenching your teeth is anytime when your mouth is closed and you have closed your jaw as well so your teeth touch. A mouth closed and at rest should have a small gap between your teeth. Once I discovered that I was a little surprised this hadn’t happened sooner.
I have had very few dental procedures in my life, and have benefitted from never needing braces. Many years ago, when discussing orthodontia, someone mentioned to me that if I had grown up in his neighbourhood I’d have had braces, meaning that there was still something to fix. In truth, I always felt that I had the teeniest of overbites, thinking that my front teeth needed to line up and touch each other instead of sliding in front/behind each other with the width of a fingernail to spare.
So I did what any illogical person would do, and I set out to correct this abnormality with free braces. Basically, whenever I thought of it I’d jut my lower jaw out so that my bottom teeth could very gently pull back my upper teeth and eventually my teeth would line up with what I thought was perfect alignment. I’ve been doing it for years, and the unnatural and constant state of unrest finally caused the membrane in that ball-and-socket joint to tire and become inflamed.
In the early stages, in the middle of last week, I actually thought I was getting an ear infection. But without a fever or any other symptoms I was a little stymied. Within a few days the fullness in my ears cleared and I couldn’t close my jaw completely on my right side. So long as I didn’t have to chew I had no problems. I promptly set an appointment with my doctor; I was almost certain it was my TMJ but needed to pay my copay ($20!!!) just to hear her tell me it was that and nothing wierd — I’ve had too many friends come up with wierd stuff these days.
With no pain, but just a lack of full mobility on the right side, she easily said it was my TMJ and nothing wierd. And now I need to rest. I’m feeling so much better, but I’m still having a hard time chewing my vegetables.
It turns out that if my teeth line up in the front, the molars don’t quite connect. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, but my out-of-control-freak self is already thinking about the next imperfection.