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My TMJ Troubles

By: Dr Emilie Perras, Downtown Chiropractor 

(parents with kids near braces time….read on…)


We usually like to write happy stories about our patients and their recoveries and wins. Well in this case, I’m the patient…and not just at Oaktree. I like to look at the bright side and see all the different challenges I’ve been through as good learning to be a better doctor. I now feel like I can really guide someone with jaw issues in the right direction! Thank goodness I have built a team around me.

First, if you don’t know, the jaw joint is called the TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint). It’s a hinge joint between the mandible (jaw bone) and the skull. There is a little disc between the bones to help with movement. When you hear a click in the jaw, it is the disc moving, but not how it is meant to.

Several years ago when I got braces (while in chiropractic school) I started having jaw pain. It eventually went away, but I was left with a click almost every time I chewed. 10 years later it came back hard. I’m quite sure it was brought on by stress. It hurt on one side of my jaw and I really felt it radiating into my ear, especially when I was trying to sleep. It also locked a lot.

Healing this has been a 4 step process. I would also like to say that each of these steps CAN be enough to heal the jaw on its own, depending on the situation. I don’t want to discourage anyone. Mine just ended up being quite complicated (again, maybe so I can be a better guide on the journey…)



First step, I started getting it adjusted. It helped temporarily. This means it was more than just the joint and nerves. (oh and I’d like to add that often jaw pain is connected to the neck so we always look at both)



For over a year, I saw a massage therapist every 2 weeks, sometimes weekly! This was someone who specialized in the jaw. The intensity of the pain went down, but still it was temporary relief. I really gave this 100% effort. If it was just muscles, we would’ve cleared it.



I’m embarrassed to say that although I am married to an amazing acupuncturist, we didn’t really start working on this for the first 6 months…I think we had other fish to fry in terms of priorities in my acupuncture care. Recently had 3rd baby etc…

It helped a lot and I regretted not doing it sooner. But I still had trouble. Less pain, but I still could not open my jaw wide without locking or wide enough to eat a sandwich, eat an apple or a carrot for example. That is not normal function.



I went to see a dentist specializes with jaw issues. She did some tests, then sent me for a CT scan of my TMJ, to an allergist, to a sleep apnea study and to an ENT. She was thorough! Turns out I have some degeneration in my joints and my discs in the TMJ are not as healthy as they should be. So what do we do?

She explained to me we had to re-align my jaw and my muscles. Every adjustment, acupuncture and massage I had before would relax everything well, but then as soon as I’d take my first bite and my teeth would touch, I’d be reinforcing the same faulty pattern, undoing everything I just fixed and tightening the muscles wrong again. Think how many times a day we bite!

She made me a special lower teeth retainer (not the same as a mouth guard to protect teeth from grinding). It essentially placed my jaw in a way that when I put my teeth together, the muscles were at maximum resting state. I had to wear it all the time, even when I would eat, which was very awkward and difficult. I had it full time for 6 months. I continued also with chiro, massage and acupuncture. It worked!

5 years later I still wear it to bed, but I haven’t had pain in years (just here and there). Unfortunately, the only thing I have never been able to get rid of is that my jaw locks when I yawn. I am hypermobile and the doc said this is going to stay. We got it to the best we could and I am very satisfied.


So then my question is: how did this start? I had braces in my 20s and they removed 4 teeth (plus I had 4 wisdom teeth out as a teen). This actually makes the mouth smaller and there’s less room for the tongue (which doesn’t change size). This can effect breathing and jaw movement. I’m not sure if it’s connected, but at some point I became a mouth breather. These days orthodontists mostly expand the palate because they know pulling teeth is not the answer. I am very careful and have done a lot of research now to avoid anything close to this happening to

It was a long story, but I hope this helps you in your journey or in preventing such a journey ?

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