Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Since the start of October, we've been following Tracey along on her journey to jaw surgery. This elective surgery is not something she has come by without diving deep, and searching for other answers. Read through previous blog posts starting on October 1st, before diving in to this one.
The next year was full of referrals related to my jaw. I would be taking a completely new approach to things. New practitioners, new approaches and a new understanding of my health.
I started by seeing a dentist that practices Bioesthetic dentistry.
The name doesn’t really do this type of dentistry justice. It looks at several principles of chewing system disharmony. The goal is to create harmony between your teeth, how they fit together and your jaw. It is very much like what we do as practitioners -- address why you are having symptoms. Not surprisingly, it totally resonated with me as an approach to use.
A MAGO (Maxillary Anterior Guided Orthotic) was created for me. I wore this device in my mouth 24/7, much as I had other devices, but I would go in every week for the next year to get adjustments made to the device.
It took a full year, but by the end of that year my jaw was finally positioned where it should have been all along. And the active bone degeneration I had been experiencing for most of my life was halted. YAY! Something to celebrate. A long process, but finally a tangible change.
The trouble was that after that year was up, my teeth no longer matched up. I now had an overbite.
Without the MAGO device I couldn’t eat – I had no contact between my upper and lower teeth at all. My lower jaw was now centred on my face, but a couple of millimetres to the right of my upper jaw. Not only that but the angle of my upper jaw in relation to my lower jaw meant that I could not close my bite.
Wow! No wonder I had such troublesome jaw problems. The misalignment had transferred from my jaw to my teeth, but for my whole life it was the other way around. But at least we had the first part of chewing harmony addressed.
Around the time that I started working with the new dentist, I also had a referral to have a sleep study done. It turns out I have severe sleep apnea. What? I was surprised, but it kind of made sense. I had never felt like I was getting a deep, good quality sleep.
I don’t have obstructive apnea where people wake up gasping, but I have something called RERAs. This stands for Respiratory Effort-Related Arousals. My airway is narrow, and when the air pressure drops during sleep, my brain panics and goes into a state of wakefulness. I have about 43 episodes of wakefulness an hour. I don’t actually wake up – my brainwave activity changes to a state of arousal. No wonder I never felt super rested!
I started to wonder if the sleep apnea was connected in any way to the jaw issues.
I now understand that I’ve had airway dysfunction for most of my life. I was a mouth breather at night as a kid due to the sinus inflammation I had that was part of my MCAS. In addition to bottle feeding, which I discussed in a previous post, mouth breathing also contributed to the altered development of my jaw and upper airway.
The next referral was to an orthodontist. Did I mention I was in braces about 7 years ago to see if it would help my jaw? Of course, it didn’t help. I wouldn’t be sharing this journey with you if it had.
I was not at all excited to go back into braces. My braces have to be the huge metal ones. They are the only option for surgery. You need some heavy-duty hardware in your mouth for the surgery, so I actually have more metal in my mouth than with my previous braces. I’m a sight with my grey hair and my adolescent-like braces.
But before I even had the braces put on, the orthodontist had referred me to a surgeon. There is simply only so far you can move teeth. The braces would just be one more step in a longer process.
It was with the surgeon that I started the conversation about sleep apnea, and lo and behold, he said that in addition to repositioning the upper and lower jaw to get my teeth to match, he could move them both farther forward to open my airway.
Really? I could correct my misalignment and my sleep apnea with this surgery? Boy, was I glad I had started that conversation. Suddenly, the idea of surgery was starting to sound a bit more appealing.
If you watched/read my post from a couple of weeks ago, you might remember that bottle feeding, in addition to changing the mouth and jaw, can also alter airway development. I have both a misaligned jaw structure and a narrow airway from bottle feeding. The puzzle pieces were starting to fall into place.
So now I’m preparing for surgery that should help with my jaw pain, and help improve my sleep, which should greatly improve my energy and health overall. Sleep is one of those pillars to good health. It’s fundamentally important.
But even more important than getting my jaw aligned, and opening my airway, is that I think this is going to help my MCAS. That’s what I’ll be talking about next time.
Surgery was originally scheduled for today (Nov 2), but has now been moved to the new year. Fingers crossed!
All month long, Tracey will continue to share her journey as she is in line to undergo jaw surgery in an attempt to reduce the strain on her mast cells, contributing to her diagnosis of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.
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