At only 35 years old, Bex was dealing with constant, debilitating jaw pain. She couldn’t smile, laugh, cry, eat, or even talk without experiencing “the worst pain [she] could have imagined.”
Bex was in pain for years without any relief. She saw a wide array of doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, dentists, and specialists, but none of them made any difference.
When the pain started interfering with her life in big ways (she says she couldn’t even read to her children or talk on the phone with family), a friend who had also suffered from TMJ referred Bex to me.
Luckily, through our West Kelowna office’s neuromuscular and physiologic approach to TMD, Bex is back to her old self. In her words, that means singing, dancing, laughing, talking for hours, and even eating steak.
Here’s how we approached her particular case.
Bex’s TMJ Treatment in Kelowna
TMD, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction, affects the joint that connects your jaw to your skull as well as the muscles that move it.
Bex has bilaterally anteriorly displaced TMJ discs. Untreated, her jaw couldn’t function normally. Specifically, Bex’s jaw was in a closed lock. She could only open her mouth a maximum of 19mm (the normal is over double that amount, around 40-55mm).
TMD is not uncommon. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that as many as 10 million people deal with TMJ disorders in the US alone. However, the disorder can have many causes and symptoms.
In Bex’s case, her TMJ discs, which absorb shock and help make the jaw movement smooth, were displaced, causing serious pain.
Here’s how I addressed Bex’s particular issues step-by-step as West Kelowna TMJ treatment provider.
1. Treatment Step One: Removable Physiologic Orthotic
We weren’t sure if we could get Bex’s discs back in their proper position, since it had been many years. So, to get her pain-free and functioning, we started her treatment with a removable physiologic orthotic that she wore for approximately one year.
An orthotic is a device that helps adjust the patient’s bite and jaw alignment while letting the jaw muscles relax. The end result is the muscles, jaw joints and teeth are balanced in the patient’s physiologic “happy” position.
With this treatment, we were able to “normalize” Bex’s jaw function, which meant she was able to chew and open her mouth 30mm. However, there was a residual pain on the left side of her face.
2. Treatment Step Two: Fixed Orthotic
For the next step, I took Bex to the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies as part of an advanced course. While we were there, we reworked her case and put her into a fixed orthotic for a few months. This helped further stabilize her symptoms, but she was not completely free of pain.
We also learned that we would not be able to recapture her TMJ discs due to permanent damage.
3. Treatment Step Three: Upper Jaw (Maxillary) Expansion
We finally resolved the residual pain on the left side of Bex’s face with an upper jaw expansion.
4. Treatment Step Four: Upper Braces and Lower Fixed Orthotic
We continued to work toward aligning Bex’s teeth and maintaining a proper bite position with upper braces and a lower fixed orthotic.
5. Treatment Step Five: Verticalize Back and Front Lower Teeth
The journey toward a proper bite position was ongoing. Next, we verticalized the lower back teeth and finally the lower front teeth for further improvement.
The End of the Tunnel for Bex’s Dentist Treatment in Kelowna
Finally, Bex is almost finished with her treatment. She is currently pain-free and she’s now able to do all the normal things – chewing, talking, and moving her face to match her moods.
Once her orthodontic work is finished, all that will be left is some minor dental restorative work.
Meanwhile, Bex is wildly happy with the results of her TMJ treatment. As she says, “I never ever believed I would ever have come this far!”
If chewing or opening your mouth causes you a lot of pain, stop hoping it will just all go away. We can help you solve your problem. Book a consultation with us today!
Dr. Shauna Palmer DDS – dentist West Kelowna/Kelowna