February 2017- Personal experience at Spear Education

At the age of 17 I underwent jaw joint (TMJ) surgery, which was followed with my jaw being wired shut intermittently and not being able to chew for 9 months. It was a very challenging experience to go through. The part that was especially hard was not being able to talk for most of my grade 12 year.

Fast-forward 13 years... 

I had an incredible experience at my course on advances in dental occlusion in Scottsdale, Arizona last week (Spear Education). Dr. Frank Spear, a leading research-driven clinician, was speaking on the high prevalence of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disc displacement in teenage girls. This condition can lead to decreased growth of the lower jaw.

Dr. Spear advised that although surgery is often not recommended for TMJ issues, this particular set of conditions definitely calls for joint surgery. He recommended surgery with Dr. Mark Piper, a Florida-based internationally renowned specialist in this highly specialized area.

I recognized as Dr. Spear spoke that I myself was one of those patients he described. As a young adolescent I was told by several dental specialists that there was something wrong with my jaw joints but they didn't quite know what. An orthodontist didn't want to treat me as he feared that he might further worsen my situation.

 Dr. Jennifer Maguire, my mother and a good and conscientious dentist, sent me to have MRIs taken of my jaw joints. Unfortunately a medical radiologist interpreted the MRI’s rather than a dental radiologist with more experience in this area and no pathology was picked up. 

Around that time my mother was taking courses on TMJ disorders at the Pankey Institute in Miami Florida and came across Dr. Mark Piper. She showed him my case (because who doesn't keep the MRI results for their daughter in their purse, haha).

Dr. Piper's informed her that I would likely require jaw joint surgery.

My mum couldn't make sense of it. I had no pain, no 'clicking', no 'symptoms'. He stated that if I did not get it I would lead a life of chronic pain and jaw joint degeneration and it was only a matter time before symptoms began.

 At the age of 16, like clockwork, I started getting constant headaches and nothing would help them. I remember one time having a headache for 2 weeks straight and having to miss many days of school. 

The following year I underwent TMJ surgery with Dr. Piper in St Petersburg Florida where he removed my deviated and perforated disks and replaced them with a fat graft. Following the surgery I got more growth of my lower jaw because I was so young and they caught it early! And the pain was gone and did not return.

 I was very lucky that my case was picked up so early by my dentist mother. Many young women are not so lucky and end up with collapse of the joint and breakdown of their teeth as their jaw keeps sitting further and further back.

This weekend for me was strangely eerie as I sat in that Arizona conference room and heard the lengthy specialist clinical discussion about adolescent TMJ patients with a particular condition. They were discussing me as a 16 year old!

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Dr. Vredenburg