Dear Dr. Winchar,
I am writing this letter with regards to the treatment I received from you, for my TMJ. I first saw you in early 2013. At that time, I had constant pain from my TMJ. Not only did my jaw joings hurt, but I also had pain from my shoulder up my neck to my ear, sore sinuses, ears and eyes and constant headaches. I was always fatigued and sick-feeling. I had been this way for the last 20 years and assumed it was the after effect of a couple of serious car accidents I had been in. Approximately 12 years ago, I noticed that I kept my teeth clenched and would grin dmy teeth while I slept. I would wake up from grinding my teeth with what felt like intense electric shocks from my back teeth.
Eventually, I mentioned to my current dentist that my back teeth were always sore. He suggested using toothpaste for sensitive teeth. When the pain persisted, he recommended a bite guard that I would wear every night while I slept. While I did, initially, get some relief from using the bite guard, I always felt it didn’t really fit right. This resulted in my taking it back to the dentist for adjustment on several occasions. The bite guard finally broke from weakness (I bit through it in the middle of the night). My dentist then tried a different type of bite guard so that I wouldn’t bite and break it. This one was a type of rubber/gel on the inside and any time I unclenched my teeth during the night, it felt like the suction was pulling my fillings out. He then replaced that one with the same type of hard plastic the first on had been. The result was the same as the first. It never felt right. It did stop the pain from grinding my teeth at night, but I would wake up in the morning with my jaw aching. Once a week, I would endure the “shocks” from my teeth just so that I could “take a break” from using the bite guard and try to rest my jaw. It became a choice of sore jaw or sore teeth. I talked to my dentist again and asked if there was somebody who was specialized in this sort of problem. That was when he referred me to you.
My first appointment with you was eye-opening and I felt that there might be hope for me yet. I showed you the bite guard I was using and you noticed right away that one side was higher than the other. When you checked the fit you found several problems with it, including the fact that it made me hold my jaw in an unnatural position, thus adding to my pain. Not only did you think you could fit me with a proper fitting bite guard, but you said it was possible that much of the pain and discomfort I had been feeling (jaw, neck, ears, headaches, etc.) could be alleviated. You asked me if anyone had ever mentioned getting braces to me. I explained that when I was younger, I had a couple of different dentists recommend I get braces. Unfortunately, they also said it would be required to break and reset my jaw first. This thought horrified me, so I decided my slightly crooked teeth and small overbite weren’t so bad. I have still considered braces occasionally through my adult life but I still couldn’t get past having my jaw broken. You explained to me that breaking my jaw wasn’t necessary and that my bite could be corrected through your treatment as well. Although most of the treatment wasn’t covered by my dental plan, I had so much pain that I decided to proceed with the treatment.
I found the procedure quite fascinating. By hooking me up to your “machine” and electronically transferring my biting and swallowing to computer images, you were able to measure my bite. You were even able to tell that I covered my back teeth with my tongue when I was drinking in order to guard my teeth from the pain (something I wasn’t even aware that I did but notice all the time now). Also, you found that my jaw was jammed back on one side and forward on the other. Next came the TENS machine. It took some time, but my jaw finally somewhat relaxed to a point where you could measure (again that “machine” and more computer imaging) where my bite should actually be. With a plaster of mold of my teeth and the information from my tests, you were able to resurface my existing bite guard to make it fit correctly. For the first time ever, my bite guard fits comfortably. I found it also made my jaw and teeth sit in such a way that my jaw was more forward. I started feeling some relief within the first few days. My jaw wasn’t aching in the morning and I felt like I slept better because of it.
It has now been a year since my first appointment with you and I am thrilled with the results!! I no longer wake up in the night from grinding and clenching my teeth. More amazing is the fact that the pain is gone. My jaw isn’t aching. My neck, shoulders, ears, and eyes don’t hurt anymore and no more constant headaches My jaw will actually “relax” now ( which was never possible before). Even my overbite is gone! I truly cannot believe that this isn’t a “regular” procedure for dentists to follow and that this treatment is not covered by health insurance coverage. I feel sorry for people with the same problem that I had that either have no idea of the treatments you offer or cannot afford the treatments. It truly improves the quality of life and should, at the very least, be a “specialized dentistry” available to everyone.
We had a conversation, during my last appointment, about wanting to retire at some point. Thinking about it later, I got quite alarmed. If you retire, will be able to replace you? If this treatment is not readily available, where are your patients going to go? I know I can’t go back to the haphazard techniques of a “regular” dentist for this and the thought actually frightens me. Hopefully, for the sake of the patients, dentistry techniques will get with the times soon and realize how helpful computer technology can be.
Thanking you again,