Dec. 4, 2000 -- At work, Deborah Zee, 45, picks and chooses
whom to speak to and for how long. She never attends loud concerts, and when
she looks at a menu in a restaurant, she decides what to order based not on
what she wants to eat, but "how much I want to suffer."
Zee, like more than 10 million Americans, most of whom are
women, suffers from temporomandibular disorder (TMD), a collection of medical
and dental conditions that affect primarily the temporomandibular -- or jaw --
joint and surrounding muscles, nerves, and tendons. TMJ, an older name for the
disorder, now usually refers only to a disease or disorder of the joint
By Geneen Roth
Do you secretly believe it's selfish to put yourself ahead of others? If
so, you may never stop packing on pounds.
There are some things in life you take for granted: Your children will
outlive you. No matter how tough it gets, you won't poison your spouse with
arsenic-laced toothpaste. And if you have a best friend, you will attend her
But life sometimes upsets our most basic assumptions. And although I haven't
resorted to the arsenic (yet), I did have...
Unlike other joints in the body, the jaw moves up and down,
forward and backward, and from side to side. It enables us to chew, talk, yawn
-- even kiss. Until one day, it doesn't -- or at least not without pain.
For Zee, the pain that began in her 20s and worsened until it
became what she describes as "your worst headache, earache, and toothache
combined," means she no longer indulges in long conversations or submarine
sandwiches. Even noise is a problem: it sparks tinnitis, or ringing in the
Then one day, a drunken driver rear-ended the car she was
driving, and her head slammed into the steering wheel. After the accident, the
pain she'd suffered for years became unbearable. An MRI showed that the soft
disc, a shock absorber of sorts, that lies between the temporal bone at the
side of the head and the condyles, the rounded ends of the lower jaw, had been
knocked out of place and torn. Surgery to repair the damage failed, and two
years ago Zee received an artificial joint implant in her jaw.
On the whole, she says, her quality of life has improved,
thanks in large part to a new arthritis drug, Vioxx. But on bad days, the
inflammation can be terrible, causing her face to bulge out and her eyes to