Sunday, August 16, 2009

A whole new face...

This is a little bit of a long story, but please bear with me. The past few days have been pretty consumed with thoughts of the doctors appointment I recently went to this past Thursday to the orthodontist. Why am I seeing an orthodontist since I have had braces TWO times already, you might ask? Well, since high school I have had problems and pain with my Temporomandibular joint, the joint that connects the mandible (jaw) to your skull, also known as TMJ.

I have been treated once already for TMJ when I was 19 and I wore a splint in my mouth as well as my second set of braces, which helped in the short term. It really never did completely get rid of my headaches, pain, and locking of my jaw, though. Most recently, I've been experience longer lasting, more intense headaches, more locking, and shooting pain under my teeth. All this to say, this is what brought us to the orthodontist.

After taking indentations of my teeth, several pictures, and a full, 360 degree scan (MRI?) of my skull, I was looking at pictures of my sinuses, teeth, and airway on a humungous (Jon might call beautiful) TV screen. And to make a long story short, my problem is a skeletal problem. It also turns out my joints are about flat from wear (which they should not be), my airway is extremely small, I have pollups in my sinuses, and I have what looks like degenerative bone disease. This doctor teaches doctors around the world about things of the jaw and teeth and he says this is one of the more severe cases he's ever seen which is not something I was really prepared to hear.

He then proceeded to tell me that most people have one optimum option along with a Plan B to treat their symptoms/ailments, but being so severe, I really only have one option. This part was disheartening to hear.

My only option to get it right this time (after braces in highschool and treatment a few years later for the TMJ) is to wear a splint on my lower teeth and braces on my top for 3-6 months while also going through physical therapy, which includes weekly visits. Two things: this doctor is in Ft. Collins and what I will do with my kiddos during this time, I don't know.

After this, I need to have surgery. My impression was that this surgery is very serious and in his professional opinion, it needs to be done by someone who specializes in this very specific surgery. He informed me that the only doctor he would trust is one in Santa Barbara, CA (also, he knows of on in Chile, but we probably wouldn't go to that one!).

Needless to say this is VERY expensive. Thankfully, we do have good insurance, but what we believe at this point will not be covered is very stressful for us and our finances. I also have to figure out what I'll do with my kids while I drive to Ft. Collins for appointments and physical therapy.

Another quirky concern is that my facial structure will change drastically because of all the treatment. The doctor was able to show me what he projected my face to look like after he corrects things and it really will be different me. I'm really struggling with how I feel about this part, as well. I'm sure you can understand why. I'm not looking forward to explaining to people that I didn't have plastic surgery or going through the story of why I look so different. Let alone my kids, who will have a mommy who is looking different, although I guess they get to see me through the transformation, but I digress...

Jon and I have prayed and discussed this a lot the last few days. All in all, though, it sounds like this is something I have to do (or face a broken jaw and much more pain later). I am considering taking frequent pictures so I can see (and maybe encourage myself with tangible progress) how things are changing and be able to show how and why my features had to change so much to both my kids and others.

Thanks for taking the time to read all this! Needless to say it's overwhelming and a little disheartening. I covet all the prayers I can get!


James said...

I will say a BIG Presbyterian Prayer for You. I'll Call You Later.

Anonymous said...

I too suffer from TMJ. After doing the night guard route I pretty much gave up on treatment because it's so expensive. Our covers a lifetime amount of $1,250.00. Give me a break. I suffer from terrible headaches including migraines and terrible pain in my jaw and teeth. Who is the doctor you're seeing?


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