I didn’t get to put a star on the calendar yesterday.
I know it sounds silly, but our grade school teachers had a point – stickers, smiley faces, and stars are more motivating than you might believe. Last year I did several rounds of monthly goals, setting a short list of things I would do every day to be a healthier person, hoping they would become habits. Some things stuck better than others and I decided to reboot the idea again for January. Every day I would eat at least one fruit and one vegetable, move for 20 minutes, stretch, and floss. And every day I do all of those things, I get to draw a star in colored pen on that day’s square on the calendar. But yesterday, I didn’t floss; so no star.
Or rather, I couldn’t floss.
I have an ongoing issue with pain on the right side of my jaw. Occasionally it gets sore and makes chewing crunchy foods more difficult. But it wasn’t a big deal. Since Thanksgiving it was hurting more often than not; I figured that the stress of work was just radiating up from my always tight shoulders and neck into my jaw. And if I kept my mouth shut a little more regularly, no one seemed to notice or complain.
Then in the last week or two I had momentary trouble opening my mouth very wide, like getting the toothbrush between my teeth would hurt. After a brief pause and a yawn to stretch everything out it always went away.
Yesterday I had trouble opening my mouth very wide when I got up. I had my usual peanut butter toast and that crunch was a little sore, and oddly the right side of my jaw kept clicking. I went ahead with my day as planned; went for my run, came home and vacuumed, then showered. I was looking forward to my lunch of soup and grilled cheese. Except eating the grilled cheese hurt. A lot. Apparently two pieces of bread was one too many when it came to thickness. I did all of the pausing, yawning, and light massage that had worked before. Nothing doing, my jaw was stuck.
As the day went on I tried warming muscle gel, ice, and more massage. I even tried forcing my teeth apart with my fingers. But no matter what I did, I had about a half inch of clearance, and constant pain.
However, I’m not a total idiot. I can ignore a problem for a long time but when my mouth wouldn’t open this morning either I left a message for the nurse at my doctor’s office. She called back and recommended I go to urgent care, or even an emergency room (which seemed excessive). I met my boyfriend for lunch and figured I should see someone, even if my jaw was loosening up over the Indian food.
At urgent care my jaw was almost back to ‘open wide’ mode. She checked my ears and throat, and felt my jaw open and close. It appears the right side of my jaw lowers just fine, and then does a side to side shimmy on its way back up. Likely this has stressed out the muscles, which is why they are sore and so tight that I don’t have full movement. She recommended the basics – heat and ibuprofen, and also that I try an over the counter mouth guard thingy to sleep in. If it’s not better in a week or two, I should see my dentist.
So I’ve got the mouth guard thingy to boil (so bizarre) to customize, and plenty of ibuprofen. It appears that today at least my jaw gets better when it is working steadily for a bit, ie. eating, but once I’m done it tightens back up. This almost certainly means that I won’t be able to open my jaw wide enough to floss tonight.
So it’ll be another day without a star. Some problem, huh?
***This was written for LJ Idol week 8, other takes on the same topic are here; and to express my desire to someday eat carrot sticks again.***