Thursday, July 17, 2008

Eating soft food and hoping for the best.

"TMJ"  that's what you call inflammation of the Temporomandibular Joint.
One picture is worth many words here. Check out the graphic:

That's right, the temporomandibular joint is quite simply your jaw hinge. We have two of them, left and right.

The condition known as "TMJ" is when something goes out of whack with that hinge, possibly caused by: nite time teeth grinding, gum chewing, vigorous (super vigorous) kissing, eating cement, stress, misalignment of the upper and lower mandibles, or bone deterioration.

Now here's what TMJ feels like:

Imagine baking a delicious muffin, and in the batter of that muffin you've mixed in three or four pebbles (not the cereal but the rocks).

Now imagine eating that muffin with great relish and gusto never knowing when BANG!, you bite in to one of the pebbles.

It's painful, it's disconcerting, and it's a real appetite-killer.

I know all this because a week ago I got diagnosed with TMJ. Now, I'm not a teeth grinder, and so far it appears that my jaws are in alignment (xrays next week will confirm), I like kissing but not demolition derby-style, and I don't routinely chew on cement.

I'm hoping its related to stress or anything other than bone deterioration. I have enough arthritis (neck and foot) to worry about this sort of thing. And, of course, as a seasonal Park Ranger, the closest thing I get to health benefits are the free band-aids in the first aid kit.

My doctor put me on anti-inflammatory meds as well as muscle relaxers (which could also be called "knock-out drops"). Soup, pudding, and applesauce are about all the menu choices I currently enjoy. Fortunately, my very humane supervisor at the battlefield has graciously rearranged my schedule at the park so that I won't be doing talks or tours for a full week (as my doctor recommended).

Not eating pizza for a while is tolerable but not being able to give talks at the battlefield for a week is going to be the hard part, that's like breathing to me.

So here's a request from your old buddy Ranger Mannie:

If you have, or have had experience with TMJ and have any advice, tips or insights, please send them to me as "comments" to this post.

Certainly, "quit your whining!" has a degree of legitimacy though I'm looking for comments that may be a little more instructive or helpful.

Like: Have any of you tried acupuncture?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you, but now, some pudding is calling my name.

Speaking softly,


Anonymous said...

Ranger Mannie,

Sorry to learn you are suffering with TMJ. I had a grandfather who dealt with TMJ in his 70s (no, I'm not saying you are elderly!). He had dentures and it was thought they were the source. I know that the pain he felt was terrific and TMJ had him on a diet of toast and coffee. Time seemed to be the healer for him as he agonized with TMJ off and on through the years. Sooner or later it would clear up for him and then stay away for a long time. I hope time helps you.

I have something similar in that a nerve from my neck down through my shoulder can give me TMJ-like pain. This happens because of too many hours slumped over at the computer (I'm a software developer) so the cure for me is to sit up straight and keep good posture at all times by not hanging my head down. Perhaps your TMJ is triggered by a certain head/neck/jaw position. You might try my good posture tip. Hope this helps. I enjoy reading this blog - you've got the job I dream of!

Good Luck,

mannie said...

Thanks Jon,

Other folks have mentioned it may come and go.

As far as posture, that's always been my downfall. It wasn't until I started wearing a Ranger uniform that I've tried to stand up a lot straighter.


Eric Wittenberg said...


I am a long-time sufferer. My jaw pops and clicks all the time. When the inflammation settles down, as it will, avoid things that rile it up. I have not had a piece of chewing gum in 15 years because of it. You're just going to have learn to deal with it.

Things trigger it randomly, and understand that you're going to have period flare-ups.

Hang in there. I feel your pain.


mannie said...


Thanks for the personal insight. This Getting old thing is really for the birds.

By the way, I just bought "One Continuous Fight"

and its one continuous enjoyable piece of reading.


S said...


I feel your pain, dear sir. Eric and I were rear-ended at 35+mph, while stopped at a light. I was drinking from a can of pop when it happened. I badly dislocated my jaw, tore the ligaments on both sides, and the cartilage had slipped out of the joints. I finally agreed to have surgery to fix the issues a year later. Do what you can to avoid surgery at all costs! I can't chew gum, eat carrots, or a big bowl of popcorn without paying for it later. Listen to your doctor, take it easy, and try to think calm, relaxing thoughts!

Jeff said...


My grandmother suffered from that for years, although it did seem to come an go.

As I recall, she gained some temporary relief from a product called Anbesol. She would soak a cotton swab with the stuff and then hold it between her cheek and jaw. Not a cure, but it did take the edge off.

Feel better soon, brother.


John said...

Have you considered a Chiropractor? My Office Manager has severe TMJ and when it is bad she visits her chiropractor for some adjustment and stretching. I am not into the "pop and crack" stuff but I visit one from time to time for a good stretching.