My Story: The Jaw Clencher



I’m going to tell you all the story of my horrible facial pain, devastating diagnosis, and subsequent treatment. The first half of October almost broke me. This is how that story started…



On Tuesday, October 1st, I taught my second grade church school class from 3:30pm to 5:00pm. By the time I had sent off the last child with the last parent, I realized my jaw was killing me. I chalked it up to having no assistant that day and having had to talk a LOT. I rushed off to get fingerprinted– required to volunteer in our schools– and went home.


That evening, my jaw throbbed and I cursed myself for being a “clencher.” I’ve long known that I sometimes clench my teeth in my sleep and the resulting ache is always pretty miserable. I took a couple of ibuprofen and went to sleep, expecting I’d feel better the next day.


Wednesday dawned and the pain was still there. I sighed, frustrated, because I knew I would, once again, be reaching for the ibuprofen. I did. And, to my dismay, it didn’t touch the pain.


By Wednesday evening, something had changed. The persistent throbbing ache that had plagued me for a day or so remained, but I had developed excruciating shock-like pains that shot from my lower jaw, along my cheek, up to my ear, just under my temple.


I had never felt pain like this in my whole entire life.


I paced. I dug my nails into my palms. I curled in a ball.


At one point, I punched the tile floor and bruised my knuckle.



By the time my husband got home, I was wild-eyed and desperate.


What was wrong with me???


By this point, I had taken ibuprofen. Acetaminophen. Even half a Vicodin I had leftover from a prior surgery. (<– you should know I NEVER take medicine for anything but its intended purpose. I am a to-the-bone rule follower. But I was so desperate.)


Nothing touched this pain.


Crying, cringing, gasping for breath, I would wait for the shooting pains to pass. They lasted anywhere from thirty seconds to a few minutes and they made me want to cut my jaw off.


I’ve told everyone the same thing– and I swear to you from the bottom of my heart that it is trueit hurt far more than unmedicated labor.


My husband offered to take A., and the girls, to karate that night so I could stay home and rest. I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax, given the way I was feeling. I asked that he keep the girls and maybe get me a milkshake to drink since I couldn’t bear to eat with the pain in my mouth.


I got in the car and drove A. to karate.


Just before I pulled into the lot, the pain came back. It felt like an electrical shock ripping through my face. I could barely keep my eyes open and focused through the pain and, in fact, I was so horribly distracted that I missed a turn and had to park in a different spot. Not only was it miserable to try to talk, I couldn’t even pull myself together to listen to and focus on my kids. I would hold up my hand in a gesture begging them to just STOP for a second, wait, let mommy make it through the next jolt.


I walked into the class and a friend and her husband asked how I was doing.


I started to cry. They held my hands as I white-knuckled it through the class.


By random coincidence, I had a dental cleaning scheduled for the next day.


I could hardly wait to go and find out what on earth was wrong with my mouth.

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11 comments to My Story: The Jaw Clencher

  • Laraba

    That is awful! I hope the pain is under control now. I would have been in the ER begging for morphine. You are tougher than I am, friend.

  • The ONLY good thing about reading this right now is knowing you are healing and are on the flip side. I cannot FATHOM the horror. :(

  • Oh my goodness!!! This sound horrendous. I can’t imagine what you were going through, especially not knowing what was going on.

  • Susan

    I hope you were able to get help. Thank goodness you have a husband who helps out with the kids.

  • Celine

    my goodness… you definitely toughed it out longer then I would have and I have a fairly high pain tolerance. It is very frustrating not knowing what is going on and not being able to get any reprieve from the pain.

  • Yikes, you left me hanging , what was causing all of this pain?

  • earleyml

    Oh my word! That just sounds awful. You are a stronger person than me, I would’ve been in Urgent Care shortly after that pain started. I too am glad to know this has a happy ending.

  • Melanie

    Stopped by randomly because I *loved* your post about 5 meals from 5 pork chops. As I read this post, I actually thought – it’s trigeminal neuralgia. My father has had it for years and watching him go through that much pain was arduous for all of us. He’s been on Tegretol & had surgery. Thankfully I saw you tagged this post under it so you got a diagnosis & help. You will be in my prayers.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the 5 meals series on pork chops! (I have another one up my sleeve for next month, just so you know. ;) ) Thank you so much for your prayers– the story actually has a very surprising and happy ending to it, so I feel very, very fortunate about that.

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