I visited with a maxillofacial guy on Wednesday and learned a few things. Most importantly, I’m not going crazy. They did a a lot more nodding-and-agreeing than frowning and brow-furrowing, which was a relief. The doctor did his poking and prodding and listening and questioning, with a diagnosis of a temporomandibular disorder.
Taking a tangent for a moment, what’s up with the Pain Scale? You know, that thing where they ask you where your pain level is on a scale of 1 (with a next to it) and 10 (with a next to it)? The issue is that 10 is never defined. To me, 10 is pain so intense that you’ve passed out and can’t answer; 9 would be spotty consciousness and uncontrollable sobbing; 8 is where you become single-threaded and can only concentrate on mitigating the pain; and then on down the line. When the man pokes my jaw and asks for a pain level, I answer the best I can but each time I’m asking myself “Relative to what?” I feel like I’m living as a 5 right now, but maybe someone who’s been in a car accident would laugh, pat my head, and call me naive.
Fortunately my issue is with muscle and not bone, so there was no talk of surgery or other drastic action. They’re checking with my insurance company to price out two oral splints, which are kind of like retainers. Street price on those suckers is about $1200 a piece, so while I’m very interested in getting them ASAP, I’m even more interested in paying 20% of the negotiated rate instead. That will take a few weeks. In the meantime they’ve prescribed something called carisoprodol for the pain, which, as opposed to the other meds I’ve tried so far, does actually take the edge off. And it makes my jaw feel better (hi-yo! *rim shot*).
One of the most curious aspects of this whole 13 week ordeal is that I might not have found my way to a TMJ guy if not for my father mentioning, somewhat offhandedly, that it may be a dental problem and I should try going down that road. My primary care guy never mentioned checking with a dentist. Nor did the ENT, who instead recommended treating the symptom (using trigger point therapy) instead of the cause, since the cause was unknown to him.
With a little luck, I’ll only have to write one or two more blog entries about this and be done with it for a long time.