Sunday, January 13, 2013


In three weeks, we're going to St. Petersburg, Florida!  
(Do you have any antique or home decor shopping suggestions?)

Photo:  Jack Ecka Coastal Living

The boring (but important) part of the trip is my visit to Dr. Mark Piper, a renowned TMJ surgeon (his website looks dated but check out his Facebook page).

As you know, I live with crushing headaches and was referred to Dr. Piper by my dentist, who claims Dr. Piper is far better than any TMJ dentist in Canada (and most in the USA).  

Dr. Piper is both a dentist (Harvard) and a surgeon (Vanderbilt Medical School).  In fact, he developed an entire system of TMJ classification which most TMJ experts use.

I have not had "mechanical" jaw issues (such as clicking, popping or locking) but I have had terrible jaw tension and increasing issues with grinding and clenching my jaw at night.  I wake up in the morning with extreme face, head and neck pain.  My teeth ache so badly.  And yes, I have worn a "bite guard" for many years but it only protects my teeth and doesn't prevent the grinding/clenching my brain is causing.  

This problem only worsened in 2012 when I changed headache medications.  Before that, I wore the bite guard to protect my teeth but had no pain issues.

It is not clear to me whether this grinding/clenching is caused by my Myofascial Pain Syndrome (which creates chronic trigger points), or whether a defect/injury in my temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is causing the problem.  The TM joint is the joint where the jaw bone - mandible - meets the skull in front of both ears.  Recall that all my headache and neck pain started after a whiplash-type accident in 1998.

My dentist informed me that even a low speed whiplash can result in misalignment of the TM joint (the jaw moves off the small disc in the joint), resulting in both mechanical jaw issues (clicking, etc.) and possibly pain (headache, neck pain).  So head and neck pain following whiplash are not necessarily due to neck (muscular) injury, as we always assume!

Dr. Piper specializes in this disc and the entire TM joint.  He will look first for mechanical problems (due to congential issues, injury) at the TM joint and help address my  clenching/grinding issues.  I really don't believe I have any problems in the TM joint, but I desperately need help with the grinding/clenching.  And at this point, I will do anything to make sure I cover all the bases.

I am seeing Dr. Piper because I have read and heard that many TMJ dentists try a variety of bite appliances and bite modifications which can actually worsen your problems.

Headaches from jaw issues can be extreme.  I have heard them called suicide headaches. So you don't want someone screwing with your jaw who isn't The Best.

The Dr. Piper Experience lasts a whole day and includes CT scans, MRI's and a variety of other tests.  Dr. Piper's fee is $1800 and the MRI is $1000, but I think it's worth $2800 to rule out a TMJ issue and to fix my serious grinding habit.  Please send donations. hehe.  :)


We have two days in St. Petersburg following my day with Dr. Piper's team.

I had no clue where any cities in Florida were located.  St. Petersburg is located on the Gulf Coast, very close to Tampa, where we fly into.

Do you have any suggestions for things to see and do in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area?  (We're renting an apartment on the beach!)

I'm also hoping to find a few antique or home decor shops.  We won't have time to go to Disney World in Orlando but we might do a little road trip one of the two days.

Soon, Terri


  1. I think, hope and pray this will be the key, the answer for you. I think I told you that my oldest suffered from terrible migranes during his jaw and teeth work. It was from the age of 14 to 18. Terrible. All subsided after all the work was done. Perhaps this is going to be a Godsend to you. I shall pray.

  2. How glad I am that this trip is getting so close. That doctor sounds like someone who would know. Now who is the foremost man in migraines in the U.S.? I'm wondering because with the plan that's rolling toward us, no one here expects quality care post 2014. I'm going to send Diane over...she knows everything. ☺

  3. Thanks Lee & Vee, yes do pray Lisa and send over your experts Vee. :)

    xo Terri

  4. Good luck with your trip, Terri. Keep us posted on how things go. When I was a teenager, my dentist "diagnosed" me with TMJ syndrome. I had some clicking, but never any pain. After the visit with all of his manipulations, making me open wide over and over, etc., I was in extreme pain. Imagine that! He prescribed a very pricey mouth guard which I was supposed to wear at night. If I recall correctly, I didn't wear it much (I was a teenager after all), and eventually the pain went away. I still had some clicking or popping occasionally, but it didn't bother me. Over the years, the popping has stopped. I also clench my jaw and grind my teeth, but since I now wear orthodontic retainers at night, my teeth aren't affected. I hope your experience with the specialist in Florida is a good one. Keeping my fingers crossed for you,

    1. Thanks Claudia. Yes, my problem was mild for years (just wore the retainers at night) but in the past year I am seriously chomping at night. Medications might have masked it.

      I am soo glad your problem went away, as I have heard many bad stories about TMJ work.

      xo Terri

  5. I'm Diane...Vee sent me over. I sure hope you find some answers to your problems. It does seem like the doctors here in Florida are the best. I know you'll have a good time staying right on the beach. We love Indian Rocks and Belaire beach....just north of where you'll be. But I'm sure the beach you will be on will be fabulous, too. I would probably spend all of my time walking on the beach looking for pretty seashells! Be sure to walk with a bag in hand for the shells you find and rinse them off outside if you can. I don't know about restaurants or shops in that city but I'm sure you'll find lots of neat places to go. I love to google an area and read reviews and see what's close to where we're staying. Bring clothes that you can layer. I had shorts and a tee shirt on was 80 degrees and I'm north of where you'll be. But it can be cool at night or if it's cloudy or rainy. I'm wishing you the very best! Sweet Southern hugs, Diane

  6. Frenchy's at Clearwater Beach is a great casual restaurant - a real Florida experience. There is a very cool, vintage Art Deco hotel nearby.

    I have a friend that is finally getting relief from years of jaw pain. This sounds crazy but she learned that anyone who was a forceps delivery could have had their jaw dislocated at birth but the pain doesn't come until years later.

    1. Thanks for the restaurant tip!

      The forceps thing does not surprise me!!! It seems to be a very sensitive joint. I will have to ask my mother how I arrived in the world...

      :) Terri

  7. Hi Terri, I don't know anything about that area of Florida, but am sending all best wishes for a good trip. I hope you find some resolution to your headaches and pain, and I hope you have a little fun shopping time. :-)
    Safe travels.

  8. This is really interesting. Who'd have even considered the jaw as a cause for the problems you mentioned. I hope he's able to do something that offers some relief.

    I don't know that part of Florida at all but just being in the warmth would be nice enough.

  9. Hi Terri, I did not realize I had a clenching issue until a few years ago, and then like you, this past year the clenching became unbelievably intense. 40 years ago I had a massive head injury that crushed my skull on one side of my face and back then they did nothing for head injuries. Then a few years ago I had another near-fatal head/neck injury (w/NDE) and it seemed to destroy whatever was left of my nervous, endocrine, immune, and musculoskeletal systems. Unlike you though, while my body appears crippled and full of diseases, I am currently being spared severe pain, yet I sense it coming, in whatever forms it takes.

    Just to briefly mention, prior to the NDE I was not a spiritual person at all, but after a few years it was revealed that all of this "tribulation" is spirit-related (even though it feels very "physical"). As it says in the Bible "there will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth", and while I do not understand what these verses mean specifically, literally, they definitely seem to apply. I know of many others who have clenching and grinding as well.

    Whatever has been flooding our world appears akin to waves of plagues. Why are we experiencing so severely and not others? I wish I knew. It seems as if I was cursed as a child.

    Anyway .. enjoy Florida sunshine, and I do hope this fresh path offers much hope, or at minimum, leads you to another viable option. xo

  10. Terri, how wonderful that your appointment with Dr. Piper is soon. I hope and pray that you will find good treatment and relief for your pain.
    I also hope you'll get to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather! I have no suggestions beyond soaking in all the Vitamin D you can.

  11. Love the Tampa/StPete area. Tampa for Cuban influence, nearby Tarpon Springs for Greek culture, food and sponge divers is fun. Great beaches.

  12. And best of luck with the Drs.

  13. Anonymous8:20 am

    It is definitely worth a 45 minute to one hour car trip to Sarasota which is just south of St. Pete. The ride on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge alone is worth it. Sarasota is the cultural coast of Florida. The Ringling Museum is there which houses John and Mable Ringling's art collection, their house, Ca'd'Zan, and the circus museum. Jungle Gardens is nearby as well. Siesta Key beach has been selected the best beach in the country by Dr. Beach a.k.a Stephen Leatherman, and for good reason. The sand is white and as soft as talcum powder. Mote Marine is an aquarium and research lab for Florida sea life. Selby Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden right on Sarasota Bay. St. Armands Circle has shops and restaurants.

    If you want to stay in St. Pete the Dali Museum and the St. Pete Fine Arts Museum are well worth it. Columbia Restaurant, which serves Cuban food, can be found in St. Pete, Tampa, Clearwater Beach, and Sarasota on St. Armands Circle, is also worth a visit.

    Good luck with your health issue and try to enjoy your trip. I hope these suggestions help.

    1. Thanks for all your wonderful suggestions!! :D

      Terri xo

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  16. Anonymous8:13 am

    I'm in Clearwater, FL, just north of St. Pete...a great thing to do is go on the SeaScreamer boat tour. The cost is very reasonable and it's a fairly calm boat ride (opposite of what the name suggests)! They take you out into the Gulf of Mexico to show you the sights, but mainly looking for Dolphins, who love to play and jump in the wake of the boat. You can get great pics. Well worth it! The Columbia Restaurant in Tampa is superb...Cuban dining at its best. Frenchy's on the beach is lots of fun, but touristy. Let's just say you don't go there for the food! Enjoy yourselves and good luck with the doctor.

    1. Thanks so much for the suggestions!! The boat and the cuban place sound amazing! :)

      Thank you! Terri

  17. Anonymous8:02 pm

    One of your anonymous readers in the Houston area. The other day there was a story on the news
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  18. hoping that you will bring good health news back with you, terri. donna

  19. Good luck Terri.

  20. Good luck Terri.

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