The physical therapist replied, “I have an excellent doctor for you” when I complained, between counting my pelvic arches (2, 3, 4…), that I think I have TMJ.
So I made an appointment for 10AM, and actually got there
early. He was not yet open. No neighborhood stores were open at 9:30 either, but I
peered through the boutique windows, and then came upon the open Post
Office. So I got on line. I can always use more stamps, and I killed
some time choosing among the commemoratives offered. And I got more of the flat rate boxes the PO
I am lying back in the baby-blue upholstered dental chair, and I explain to the doctor, “I can’t open my mouth wide enough to bite into an apple.” He says, “So why don’t you just cut it up?” At that point I should have said, “Oh thank you,” and walked away to find someone who would give me the answer I wanted, “Let’s see whether I can help you with that.” Or maybe they can’t.
I continued to list my symptoms, “At night sometimes my ear aches, my jaw hurts, my tooth aches all here on the right.” He says, “Stop telling me all that and let me focus.”
My physical therapist, Dr. David, always asks for details: when did you notice it, how long did it last, what were you doing when the pain started - so much minutia, that I assumed his referral would have the same pattern of query and I was at the ready.
I tried once more. In a little voice I said, “I noticed that I have been clenching my teeth while I sleep.” “Ah hah!” Now he is ecstatic. “You need a Mouth Guard.” And the nurse rolls up this formidable machine, and in goes the wad of clay in the mouth, "Pull your lower teeth back, bite down," and then, “Come back in a week.”
A week later I am fitted with this ridiculous upper teeth device which is attached with two hooks. “Too tight, too tight.” He removes it, does some grinding. Again. “Too tight, too tight.” He says, “You’ll get used to it. Here let me show you how to get it out. Use this finger nail and pull.” “I can’t get it off! I can’t.” Disgusted he pulls at it with his nail, and it takes some effort for him to remove it. He works on it some more. It’s still too tight. “I won’t wear it. I don’t want it.”
“It will loosen up as you wear it.” “So make it loose right now.” “If I make it loose, it will fall off.” “I hate it.” If I were not reclining, I do believe this is where I would stamp my foot. He works a bit on the metal clips. Snaps it back in. “You will get used to it,” he says adamantly. Shoves a hand mirror into my fist and says, “Look while you take it out.”
With the mirror in hand, I see a protruding pink plastic on this devices sticking out in front of my teeth. “Look,” I howled, “I can’t close my mouth over this!” He insists I can, so I pull my lips over it, and he concedes that it does, indeed, protrude. He grinds it back. In the mouth again. “It’s got a big lump at the roof of my mouth.” “It’s supposed to.” This I don’t believe, but I do believe I’ve exhausted his patience. I make an exaggerated show of pulling hard at the device to remove it, and he says, “Come back in a month for a check-up.”
That night, I do indeed get used to it. I will let you know whether all these peripheral symptoms go away. And I will give it the apple test.
But the only apple I want to eat is wrapped in caramel and studded with nuts, and with a wooden spike jutting up out of it. If I have to, I will cut it in pieces, as directed.