1. Opening chapter: growing up with TMD

I was probably around 8 years old. I was rather a quiet girl most of the time but when my cousins were around I turned wild, going on ventures and causing trouble (unintentionally of course!). I’m unsure when it began exactly but I started feeling discomfort around my eyes and facial area and slowly it became more difficult to see what was written on the board in class. A year later, I went to the opticians and following an eyesight test, I was given a pair of glasses. Soon after that I started experiencing changes in my facial shape and within the space of 6 months I almost looked like a totally different person.

There were other changes that I noticed such as a decrease in concentration, having pains in the neck and the shoulders and constantly feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep. I would wake up in the morning and my mother would ask me if I had a been able to get a good night’s sleep because I was grinding my teeth so badly. These symptoms were not so serious but increasing in frequency and eventually became things that I just got used to. Living with discomfort, I was easily irritated and gradually became a short tempered and impatient person.

When I was 14, I began orthodontic treatment (with 4 tooth extractions due to the size of my teeth) which lasted 2 years. I believe this was the beginning of my unhappy life. Discomfort turned to pain and other symptoms began to appear which deteriorated very quickly. Often, I experienced muscle tension around the face, headaches were unbearable from time to time and discomfort around the neck and shoulder area became permanent. Focusing at school was almost impossible and day dreaming became a habit. I became an introverted person at school, even hanging around with friends was not something that I enjoyed and slowly I started to view life in a different way.

Sadly, I thought all the things I was experiencing were what every teenager went through and that impatience and over sensitiveness were part of my personality.

Fortunately, I started break-dancing at 17 years old which allowed me to become a livelier person. Although the pains and discomfort did not go away, I felt better mentally as dancing was something I enjoyed doing. I briefly thought of doing it professionally but gave up as the pains were restricting me from doing certain moves. During university, I joined the break-dancing society which allowed me to enjoy the 3 years and also help me pull through stressful times.

It was only last year, at the age of 23, when I found out that the various not-so-serious but nagging symptoms that I experienced since early stages of my life were ultimately symptoms of chronic TMD (Temporomandibular joint Dysfunction).

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