I wonder how many of you, as I did, wore braces as a child. As a teenager my teeth were very overcrowded and it was decided that I needed four molars removed. The reasoning behind this was that I had a small, narrow jaw, big teeth (thanks Mum and Dad) and not enough room for the other critters waiting to erupt. Wisdom teeth were mentioned. Now these I liked the sound of. These were very mysterious and obviously important, as their name implied, and I looked forward to their arrival as one might the arrival of the Queen of the Tooth Fairies. So, on one fateful day, four perfectly good teeth landed on the dentist’s floor and once healed I was dispatched to the Orthodontist. I remember travelling across Birmingham on two buses, and arriving in the office of a most lovely Dentist. He was unable to walk and used a specially adapted chair in which he zoomed around the surgery with alarming speed. I loved him. He made me laugh and I still remember his kindness. That made up for ‘The Braces’. These I could not love, try as I may. Each adjustment made my jaw ache intolerably. My braces were fixed to a removable plate, and so, as my teeth dutifully retreated to some impossible position the braces became loose. Eating and talking became synonymous with a paper stapler in my mouth as the appliance rattled around, painfully catching my lips and tongue. Two years went by, until the happy day I was told my treatment was complete. Ah! The Perfect Smile!
Advance on a few years. I was now working as a student nurse and really enjoying my calling. The working day was long, but I loved my patients, studied hard and got good results and celebrated with my fellow students. One of my hobbies at this time was horse riding and while trekking one day my horse and I parted company. I woke up, dazed on the ground. No concussion was diagnosed and I was riding the next day. A few weeks later I experienced my first Migraine. I suffered from Migraine for most of my adult life.
It was in my early twenties, while I was serving as Nursing Sister in the QARANC, that my Wisdom Teeth announced their long awaited arrival. Only, they hadn’t got enough room to erupt, despite my previous Orthodontic work. So it was that I became a patient on a Military Ward. How embarrassing. There were the serving soldiers, with serious injuries and there was little me with swollen cheeks. I got out of bed asap and served the drinks at tea breaks to assuage my guilt.
As the years went by I continued to experience Migraine and endured every type of medication with little or no effect. A breakthrough came during a visit to my Dentist that I complained of what I thought was toothache. X-rays showed no abnormalities and yet my pain was real. My Dentist then did a very simple thing. Taking my cheek between his thumb and forefinger he applied firm pressure. That was it! That was the pain I was trying to describe to him. He told me I had a Temporomandibular joint problem TMJ and Bruxism. He made me a simple gum shield to wear at night and my pain went away. I now know, however, that the cause had not.
My Migraines persisted and I was alarmed at the number of teeth – especially my lower molars – that were breaking. It was then that a colleague suggested that I booked six sessions with a Bowen Therapist named Joanne. Problems such as sciatica and lower back pain began to resolve as Joanne worked sensitively with my body. Then I noticed that I had more energy, my sleep improved, lower back pain and hip stiffness vanished. It was a few months later that I realised that I hadn’t had a Migraine in months. Now, that’s not unusual, as we humans quickly forget our pain – try as you might, you cannot fully recall a physical pain accurately. It’s a beautiful safety mechanism. What we do remember is the psychological and emotional effects of pain. But I digress. I was so impressed with the results I had from my Bowen treatment that I went on to train in the technique.
I have described my medical history in some chronological detail because I feel it is important. Mine was a classic set up for TMJ issues. The removal of four teeth, fixed braces and a whiplash injury from a fall did, in my opinion lead to numerous health issues. In fact, one dentist actually apologised that her profession had not dealt with my obvious jaw issues earlier, saying that I could have avoided the crowns, bridge work and numerous fillings I had endured.
The effect of the Temporomandibular Joint is often referred to as the ‘hidden imposter’ because it mimics many other physiological and emotional problems. Here are just a few:
Neck and back problems; Tinnitus; headaches and Migraine; changing bite and worn down teeth; Scoliosis; Pelvic and Coccyx dysfunction; Neurological disorders i.e. Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome and Torticollis.
In 2012 I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by a leading specialist in this field, Dr J Wellington (Skip) Truitt, a leading specialist in orthodontics. You can see some of his case work by visiting www.cfoo.com. He inspired me to specialise in TMJ issues. Later workshops with Julian Baker, Principal of ECBS followed, where I learnt specialist techniques relating to the jaw and pelvis. Today, I see many clients with obvious and not so obvious TMJ issues. But because of my personal history, I am particularly fond of those teenagers about to undergo Orthodontic work or who are already wearing braces. It is not all about ‘The Perfect Smile’.