Aside from all the fun of the teasing when I was growing up, having a lower jaw that was too small has had additional benefits. Although there was no discernible physical or emotional relief when I discovered that I didn’t actually have bucked teeth, it was interesting to discover that my overbite was actually due to the lower jaw being too short. That didn’t do much for my self-concept nor did it bring any relief to the TMJ pain I’d experienced since adolescence.
According to the Mayo clinic’s website, the “temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull.” Makes sense that most folks just call it “TMJ,” doesn’t it?
I had a tendency to slide my hinge a bit too far, trying to compensate for that half-inch mismatch between my upper and lower incisors. That habit when trying to take a bite of apple or eat corn on the cob or other such circumstances had forced the jaw to pop out of joint on one side or the other. There were a few times when I seriously wondered if it would go back in.
A kind and compassionate maxillofacial surgeon offered to break my lower jaw on each side, pull the front part forward and wire everything back together for only ten thousand dollars back in the late Eighties. I was pretty sure I knew a few people who would happily break my jaw for free so I passed on the opportunity.
I’ve learned to live with the aggravation. I can’t open my mouth more than slightly without the joint popping. Every big bite pops one or both sides and just chewing my food irritates things. Each trip to the dentist for anything more than regular cleaning leaves the joint and jaw muscles pretty sore for a couple of days. Being forced that far open and out of position for a half-hour to an hour-and-a-half leaves a reminder of sorts. That would probably be true whether I had TMJ issues or not.
But the soreness goes away pretty quickly. I don’t eat apples or corn on the cob every day. I learned forty years ago that the beard and mustache provide sufficient distraction that most folks don’t pay much attention to my actual facial structure. Even though I’m reminded of the defect on a very regular basis, I think it’s good to learn to live with one’s limitations. Not every deficiency has to be remedied or relieved.
And most people are far more concerned about how you treat them than whether or not your teeth are perfectly straight and gleaming white.