15 September 2009

Headache and TMJ

My long absence from this blog is due to my latest attempt to figure out what is causing me 3-5 days a week of headaches. In May I had a routine dental cleaning and afterward suffered my usual 2-3 days of migraine. The difference this time was that after bugging my dentist the last two visits about my post-visit pain I finally got the courage to ask him about my bite issues. Prefacing my question with the comment that I was almost afraid to start because past attempts to fix my bite issues only made things worse, I nevertheless dove in headfirst.

It seems my bite is not only bad, it is unique. My dentist wondered aloud how I could chew a meal at all given my particular problem. I silently wondered why this is the first time he has mentioned it to me. Then he says that it is probably time for me to see an orthodontist. So off I went, thinking I was doomed to wear braces again. Well, the short story is that I am so messed up that braces alone will not do the job. So in June, after many xrays, photos and molds being made, I began wearing a big plastic bite splint, which gives me a lisp, and went on yet another alteration in my diet and started taking even more supplements. In January, the braces go on and about a year later I am looking at jaw surgery to enlarge my lower jaw, which is the source of all my bit problems and probably the cause of all the facial pain and then another year of braces.

I hesitated to write about this for awhile because there is so much sensational information out there about TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), which is the clinical name for my problem. The cause of my TMJ issues mainly involve my undersized and recessed lower jaw, stress and my teeth clenching and grinding at night. I have worn a night guard for about 10 years and it has kept me from grinding my teeth, but does nothing to prevent clenching. Neither does the splint, but it protects my joint. The surgery I am facing is not TMJ surgery, of which much negative press exists, but rather jaw surgery to correct the defective small jaw.

So now I take an anti-inflammatory drug and I am on a soft diet (sigh) which means nothing hard or chewy, no steak, no nuts, no carrot sticks, for God's sake. Looking back on things, I don't wonder why eating too many nuts not only caused me to gain weight, but also triggered a headache. Probably it was the jaw action, rather than an allergy to almonds that was the culprit. I do notice that I feel better on the soft diet and the fish oil and glucosamine and all the salmon I am eating make my skin look great! The other upside to spending thousands of dollars on braces, etc. is that after it is all done (2.5 years from now) I should look 10 years younger since extending my lower jaw will take up some of the slack skin of my aging body and make my nose look smaller. If it cuts my headaches down even one third, I will be happy and think it money well spent.

Unfortunately for me, my days of eating pretty salads like the one featured above are over for the time being. I made this salad in May prior to my diagnosis and it featured Japonica Mahogany Rice, roasted chicken thighs, chopped apple and toasted pecans and dried cranberries with a walnut oil and red wine vinegar vinaigrette. Today I would have to crush the nuts into oblivion if I wanted them and skip the dried fruit and cut the apple up REALLY small.

Some of you may wonder, as my husband did, whether this new diagnosis means I can eat gluten again. The answer is a resounding “No”. I still think the malabsorption caused by the gluten had something to do with my migraine with aura. It is still the case that I am migraine-with-aura free since going gluten-free and discovering my reactive hypoglycemia. I think the TMJ was responsible for a lot of the other headaches that have no aura. Also, after having unintentionally eaten gluten recently (Tums Smoothies can contain gluten it seems), I know that I still have a problem with gluten.

I remain, Karen, herself gluten-free


Deb said...

Hang in there! I have had a lot of success controlling daily headaches with a gluten-free diet and my trusty bite guard. I also try to work in some light massage on my jaw during the day (particularly at work when I unconsciously clench), along with frequent jaw stretches. I have to stick with it, but it does provide some relief. Yoga and meditation are great in helping me to calm down facial muscles too. Best wishes, and thanks for the insightful blogs!

Loh said...

I recently found your blog while searching for information about headaches, and this entry caught my eye.

I was wondering if you'd asked your orthodontist about expanders( there small metal appliances that use a wrench or a spring to force your jaw to grow bigger).I was born with both my upper and lower jaw to small so I had various incarnations of them from the time I was 6 till I was 12/13 and know my jaw is the correct size and my bite is more or less correct.

As the paragraph above implies I'm used to having to eat soft foods. I highly recommend stuff like minestrone soup, brunswick stew, and bean/pasta salads. Basically anything that lets the tougher ingredients soak in a liquid. I still have a couple good recipes floating around if your interested and while I can grantee them as gluten and egg free (I cook for my mother who's gluten intolerant and hates eggs) I don't know enough to tell you if they're high in refined sugars.

I've only looked at your abbreviated list of allergens so you might already checked for an allergy but I know a lot of people, myself included, who have a major problem with cinnamon.

katterine7 said...

You're hanging in there tight! I heard small jaw is a nutrition problem; people centuries ago had large jaws accomodating all teeth just fine, even the wisdoms. Now I found that getting dental braces can really fix the TMJ symptoms, have you thought of that?

Just call me "Nana" said...

I call TMJ the "open wide syndrome". My TMJ difficulties have been caused by exactly this at dentists' offices.

I'm also GF and extremely chemical sensitive along with being hypoglycemic (reactive).

One major contributor to my migraines years ago was MSG aka Accent (or the multitude of names it goes by up to and including "natural flavoring" and "natural seasoning"). Once I eliminated that seasoning alone (read labels carefully), my migraines went away...along with depression and not crying at the drop of a hat.

Also, I'm extremely sensitive to plastics. This means I can't put it to my mouth. I use glass straws and carry them with me along with non-plastic eating utensils. I put all my liquids in glass bottles. I never microwave using plastic in any form. I use natural bristle toothbrushes and baking soda (toothpaste is sold in "plastic").

Just wanted to add these tidbits to, hopefully, help you gain control over your migraines.

Pierce said...
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