Featured in The Airway Advocate, from the
My airway story started in 1941 when I was delivered by forceps. My mother labored for five days because the doctor did not want to do a C-section. That decision – made by a town family doctor subbing for our physician who was called to WWII – set me on a path of life-long pain.
I was not like my brother and sister. I had coordination issues, learning difficulties, allergies, and severe eczema. I also had a narrow upper arch, a bad cross bite (upper and lower teeth don’t line up properly), and retruded upper and lower jaws, which means they look pushed back. I had no way to understand or explain the structure of my face, but I certainly lived with the consequences. People accused me of being “stuck up” because I had to walk with my nose in the air in order to breathe. I was a good student, but I had to work really hard to get those A’s.
Fast forward to my adulthood: A few days after I gave birth to my daughter, I opened my mouth for a forkful of scrambled eggs and my jaw locked open. That was the first I knew I had TMJ problems. I underwent a full mouth reconstruction, but that didn’t resolve my pain and ultimately, it made it worse. In the midst of all this, my husband left us when my daughter was 3 months old, and by the time she was 2, I was suicidal.
The other major symptom I developed after the reconstruction was ringing in my ears, which persists to this day. My troubles led me to a career in myofunctional therapy which I have practiced for over 40 years. When two of my patients’ lives had been saved by a DO performing cranial osteopathy, I gave it a try and had a life transforming experience. On the third treatment – and as the therapist’s hands cradled my head – I heard what sounded like a cork popping out of a champagne bottle. The bones in my face moved and all my pain was gone! I had definitely found part of my answer, but my bite and jaw joints continued to be an issue. As I continued my epic search for solutions, I stayed with the cranial adjustments because that’s what preserved my sanity. Another reconstruction of crowns and bridgework was recommended. I did it, and the ringing in my years got even worse.
No one diagnosed that I was wearing out my jaw joints and discs and that I needed surgery to advance my “retruded” – pushed back – upper and lower jaw. As the saga continued, I began to have symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. As the saga continued some more, I had a car accident that caused more joint damage but also funded the surgery to replace my jaw joints and to move the upper and lower jaws forward.
I understand that all these elements in my epic journey sound overwhelming, but I want to list them so you get a sense of just how much can go wrong starting with birth trauma. Perhaps you will spare yourself or someone else unnecessary or harmful treatment. Some results of the surgery:
- I developed a serious condition in my right eye, which would not blink.
- Damage to my lips made me look like I’d had a stroke.
- I had blood clots in my lung and right leg.
Now we are up to my third (!) mouth reconstruction. I had two crowns that were fractured to the root. Decay had set in in crowns placed 38 years earlier. I lost three teeth. I had bridge work. I had five implants. This time, the reconstruction seemed successful. The symptoms listed above were resolved, and I am eternally grateful.
I am telling you my story because it is so critically important that a patient’s history begin with their birth story. Birth trauma causes internal stress on the boney mechanism; tongue or lip tie can cause inability to nurse correctly and affect proper dental development; developing correct nasal breathing and avoiding mouth breathing affects every single day of the rest of a person’s life; baby-led weaning helps develop a proper chewing mechanism; early treatment of an incorrectly placed maxilla and mandible in the face (Orthotropics) is critical to proper breathing, avoiding jaw joint damage and pain, preventing an unattractive facial structure, poor head-neck-body posture, and sleep apnea. Living a healthy-productive life is dependent on so many factors beginning at birth and making the right treatment decisions for the future.
People experience way too much treatment and not enough relief. I wish my own story had been different, but because it wasn’t, I have been able to help many people find solutions to the complications of birth trauma and the profound health problems that develop around a compromised airway. I’m sharing my story with the Foundation for Airway Health in the hope that you or someone you love will be spared.