I never knew you could sprain a jaw. Apparently I have done so. For the past 10 days or so, the left side of my jaw, at the joint, has been sore to the touch. I thought I had a swollen gland since I've also been fighting the ubiquitous cold. Then it started to hurt to open my mouth wide - like when you take a big bite of something, or when you yawn. Last week I decided that if it still hurt after Christmas, I'd call my doctor. On Tuesday, I saw the nurse practitioner who diagnosed an undetermined infection (perhaps a sebaceous cyst infection) so she put me on an antibiotic. She told me that if it didn't feel better after 24 hours on the meds, I should call my dentist. Yesterday I called the dentist, and he fit me in right at the end of the day. He examined my jaw thoroughly, eliminated a number of possibilities, and then took a panoramic xray of my jaw. After examining it, he hurriedly left the room. When he returned, he told me that he'd made me an appointment with an oral surgeon for today. He said "I maybe an alarmist, but there's something not right and I want a surgeon to look at it." Of course, that made me feel quite calm (NOT!) and I spent a sleepless night. My husband changed his work plans so that he could accompany me to the oral surgeon (about an hour's drive away) so I knew he was equally worried. The oral surgeon did a thorough exam of my jaw, took a 2nd Xray, and finally told me that he was 99% sure it was a variety of TMJ and that I had sprained my jaw! So for the next week, I am undergoing a regime of ibuprofen, warm compresses, and soft food. If there is no improvement, he will set me up with some physical therapy - who knew you could get PT for a sprained jaw! If that doesn't help there's an expensive diagnostic test he can do. I asked him if he was sure enough that it wasn't something scarier because I'd be willing to pay for the test if he thought there was a strong possibility I would need it. He reassured me, but also told me that it could take weeks for my jaw to feel better. He did tell me that USUALLY he sees this in athletes or trauma, but very occasionally it's stress related. He also said there might be a possibility that it's an arthritic condition, in which case, the treatment would be similar.
So I learned that you can sprain a jaw, and that you can get physical therapy for it. I was also reminded of how much I like my dentist - he was worried enough to send me to a specialist, but also honest enough to tell me that he might be overreacting. I also learned that I don't mind waiting in a doctor's office when the receptionist tells you the surgery the doctor was performing was taking a bit longer than usual, so he was running about 20 minutes behind and then she checks in with you twice to let you know what was going on. Plus there was a help-yourself Keurig with many varieties of Kcups in the waiting room, new magazines, and lots of lovely plants. And when the doctor finally sees you he apologizes for keeping you waiting. As I told him, I'd rather wait than have you hurry the surgery!!