At the breakfast table I looked out at the misty morning, popped a prescription Naproxen and washed it down with my orange juice while waiting for my Cheerios to get soggy. I don’t like soggy Cheerios. Nor do I like taking medication and resent this Naproxen more than you could know. Nevertheless, it is what I need at this time because the crusty bread from the previous night’s bruschetta did a number on my jaw. Something I didn’t anticipate when I decided to make the bruschetta for dinner.
This adventure started last Halloween night. Last Halloween was the Halloween I decided to buy the nuts because nutty candy are the only ones I like; and since we get fewer and fewer kids each year, there are always left overs. I feel guilty when things go to waste. Of course, I always purchase too much for fear of being guilty of not having enough. It is a guilt-ridden annual cycle. Thanks to my mother, I am a person who has long been motivated by guilt.
After the outside lights were turned off and the pumpkin removed from the window that night, I tore open a few mini packages of M & M’s coated peanuts. Each package has only about six coated peanuts inside. Certainly not enough to be considered a treat. I always gave out at least two packages to the kids at the door. And because the damn things are addicting, I knew I would want more than just six. I popped and chewed and popped and chewed and popped and chewed and so on about seven times until I popped and chewed and my jaw screamed. Fuck was it angry. It hadn’t bothered me in ages, but I obviously pissed it off big time. My ear shrieked and began to throb. Something it has been doing ever since.
For the following two weeks, I couldn’t open my mouth more than a half an inch to put food in. I happen to like food so I still managed to get it in. I squished it, I cut it, I soaked it and I nibbled at it with my front teeth. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Believe me I did not lose any weight.
I did go to my Doctor who prescribed Naproxen twice a day and told me that this was going to take a long time to heal. Do you know what Naproxen twice a day does to one’s system? A normally happily functioning digestive system that loves to eat and get rid of any of the by-products of eating without too much trouble. After several weeks of Naproxen discomfort, I stopped taking it as prescribed. I started taking it as needed. In other words only on really, really, really, bad jaw/ear days.
I went to my dentist, who thought a bite plate was in order so I forked over the money for said appliance, willing to give it a shot because my bite has been bad for years. My bite is so bad it is making my teeth crooked. And I tried it. I really did. I used the bite plate every night for four whole weeks thinking that I would get used to it even though it seemed too large for my mouth. Even though it didn’t seem to leave any space for my bottom teeth to rest comfortably any where in my mouth. Even though my bite was so far off each morning when I removed it that I had to do yoga inversions to get it to consider settling back into a better place. Even though the pain every morning when I took it out was almost unbearable. Then finally unbearable so I didn’t put it back in.
The dentist recommended an oral surgeon. Holy fuck! The last thing I wanted was jaw surgery. The oral surgeon, who had a whole lot initials after his name, including MD, looked at my information, asked some questions wiggled my jaw a little and told me that I did not need surgery. Whew! He said the whole thing was muscle related, and I should probably have a thinner, adjusted bite plate that could stay in almost all the time. Well that did sound better than surgery. Then again, anything sounds better than surgery. With all those initials, this guy surely must know what he’s talking about.
In the mean time, he said, you need to do a little free at-home physiotherapy, and he proceeded to build a stack tongue depressors in his hand. Open up! Then he proceeded to put the stack into my mouth and slide additional depressors into the stack as if he was lifting a house off its foundation. In the end he had put eighteen (yup 18) tongue depressors in my mouth. He took them out and handed them to me and said, here bite on these five times a day. OK…
For the past week and a half I have been biting on 18 tongue depressors five, or almost five, times a day. Except for the day after the crusty-bread bruschetta incident mentioned above. I do have a habit of learning certain things the hard way. And believe me this biting on wood hurts like hell. I bite and try to count to 60 or 100, or I remove the depressors when my chin drips with saliva. The wood is starting to get warped from the moisture. But guess what… it is also working. After the first couple of days I noticed a big difference. Right now my bite is closer to normal than it has been in a several years. Who knew? How’s that for a simple solution.
So why do I consider this an adventure? Because life is an adventure. Because I consider being lucky enough to exist on this planet an adventure. Not all adventures are grand trips or explorations. Not all adventures are easy or pleasant. Every day events can be adventures that you can build a story around. So I wanted to build this story. Please know that I did not write this story looking for sympathy. I don’t need sympathy. I wrote it to share the adventure.
Thank you for reading.
Photos: Jenn Stone