How Dr. Gallagher’s TMJ Treatment saved my life and improved my quality of life, by Glenn Bellman!
Dr. Gallagher saved my life! I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I mean he literally saved it and improved my quality of life. I’ve been on a three-year journey and found myself steadily declining every day, week, month and year that went by.
It’s now been almost a year since my wife found Dr. Mike’s information online and I’m happy to report that I’m pain free. I’m probably 99% improved since embarking on this journey. After seeing a slew of doctors, medication, CBD oil, hypnosis, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, watching hundreds of videos and reading forums online, it was Dr. Mike and his team who diagnosed and fixed me. I no longer feel facial pain, neck pain, I breathe better (no kidding, my airway felt restricted at times and swallowing food was a challenge at times), I no longer have tingling in the arms, torso or head and face, my hearing has improved
(just an observation – I haven’t had it tested yet) my muscles and personal self feels balanced, and overall I feel healthy. Things like shaving are even more pleasurable as I have muscle in my face, and I cut myself far less. Thank you Dr. Mike, Jenny, Suzy, Lisa, Brandy and everyone at Dr. Gallagher’s office. This was a team effort.
Here’s my story: It all started in 2015, two days before Thanksgiving. My family was coming to town and I drank something through a straw at lunch. I felt this lightning bolt pain down my left jaw that didn’t feel right and wouldn’t go away. I lived through the weekend in pain and silence as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself and ruin the holiday for everyone. Sunday night I confided what I was feeling to my wife. She was angry that I hid this from her, and she noticed a change in me over the weekend. I scheduled an emergency dentist appointment with my old dentist (not Dr. Gallagher) the following week. I felt like cattle that was being treated like a cash cow. I was told that I have fractured teeth, which I did from clenching and grinding for years, and needed to adjust my bite through contouring and grinding (which was partially true). I was desperate and looking for solutions, so I did it. I was also fit for a night guard. After my adjustment my pain got worse and returned for more contouring. I got even worse. I was also scared as the pain was radiating underneath a tooth implant that I got two years earlier when we lived in Seattle. Was the implant failing and I had an infection? Did I have cancer? I know that sounds crazy but your mind races when you’re in pain and you just don’t know.
I went on a journey looking for answers and exhausted all avenues. I saw a periodontist, two oral surgeons, an endodontist, my general practitioner, a chiropractor, an ear nose and throat doctor, a neurologist, a facial pain specialist, massage therapist and I even sought the help of an acupuncturist and hypnotist. If you’re keeping count that’s twelve people. Believe it or not the acupuncture and hypnosis helped the most and provided at least some temporary relief.
My chiropractor gave me the best diagnosis as she looked at me and said, “Glenn, your jaw is crooked. It opens and hinges down sideways. You have a problem there.” Sure enough, I was noticing that the muscles in my face were much more prominent on the left side of my face and I felt hollow on the right side. I was crooked but oral surgeons told me that I don’t have TMJ and wasn’t a candidate for surgery. So, did I have TMJ/TMD or was this pain something more sinister?
I sought the help of a neurologist who gave me two MRI’s. One of my head and one of my neck. The head MRI showed a vascular loop which is a blood vessel that’s hooked next to a nerve, the trigeminal nerve to be specific. She was concerned that I had trigeminal neuralgia. It’s when a blood vessel is activated it could move against the nerve rubbing away the myelin sheath (the outer coating of the nerve) and going directly to the nerve causing great pain. She prescribed meds, gabapentin. First, 300mg a day and nothing happened. Then 600mg, still not much. 900mg, okay, but finally 1200mg seemed to make the pain subside. That was my jam. I wasn’t satisfied with being doped up and I had to pause several times a day to take my meds. Although I was masking the pain I still didn’t feel right. I wasn’t healthy. If you’re familiar with Gabapentin it’s also how the drug works into your blood stream. You just can’t take more or less. You have to build to it over time and takes weeks to come up in dosage. It also plays with your equilibrium and makes you jittery which made me wary of putting this into my body. I’m not big on meds but this felt necessary vs. being in pain.
The worst care I received was from the facial pain specialist I saw. My old dentist referred me to his “friend,” and he seemed very optimistic about his results. It took forever to get an appointment (over a month) in his fancy office and I had to pay $750 up front before I even got to see him. When I arrived, they put me in an exam room and while I waited for about 15 minutes I thought, “Oh boy, this is it, the cavalry is coming.” The Dr. came in the room, listened to me and then taught me three exercises he wanted me to do and I should avoid hard or chewy foods. That was it. He probably had me for five minutes in there. Oh, and they booked me for a follow up appointment in a year. Sure, I’ll be certain to pay $750 in a year and let you know how my three jaw exercises are going. There’s gotta be better care out there.
While all of this was occurring, my pain was worsening, I was growing irritable, slightly depressed (which isn’t me whatsoever) and having a really, really difficult time focusing at work due to the pain. Things I’ve always enjoyed doing weren’t as enjoyable to me like vacations and going out to dinner with my wife. My job was stressful, I traveled often, and I had about 1000 employees relying on me and I needed to be present and open to all. I was feeling guilty that I was having a hard time giving it 100% (again, something that wasn’t me). I was tempted to take a medical leave but a leave from what? A phantom pain that nobody had legitimately or factually diagnosed? I’d feel like a fraud if I asked a doctor to give me a medical leave and what would I be returning to? Would I be better? I stuck it out and tried to push myself more at work while my pain worsened.
My pain was going through stages over the years. It started in 2015/2016 concentrated just in my jaw and seemed to move around there. After several months it then localized on the left side of my face from my temple to under my eye and down through the jaw. It was all getting more painful. Over the following year it moved to my ear and started to go down my neck. It even gave me tingling in my left forearm, on the left side of my torso and the left side of my head from my temple to above my ear. It was eerie and weird and occurred mostly while in bed trying to sleep. This also lead to numerous sleepless nights. I also had symptoms of tinnitus (hearing loss) and had a hearing test administered by an ENT. Shaving was tough because it gave me this terrible nerve feeling in my face and I usually cut myself because of contours from not having muscles properly in place in my face. I know that sounds crazy but true. The final straw for me was when I was on a treadmill in April, 2018 and the pain began to move from my neck to around my throat almost choking me. That lasted for a while and it’s a terrible feeling. It even restricted my airway and at times made swallowing a challenge.
In the summer of 2018 I was at my lowest. I was on meds and my condition was worsening. I was now convinced that I had a TMJ issue, but oral surgeons said I wasn’t a surgery candidate because I didn’t have clicking, popping and my jaw seemed to function correctly. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I decided to take a nap on our porch. When I woke my wife said she spent her time while I was sleeping doing a Google search, one of many, and found a doctor in Eden Prairie that does splint therapy for TMJ. It sounded revolutionary. By this time, I was weary of Doctor’s and was reluctant to give another one a shot. She said to me, “Go and see him. It can’t hurt.” I remember I responded, “Really, you want me to go to a Cosmetic Dentist for this issue? Sure, let me go and give some guy another $750 and get zero answers.” My wife made an appointment for that week and in hindsight I’m so grateful she took this into her own hands and I was open to it (albeit reluctant but still open).
I arrived at Dr. Gallagher’s office and filled out another medical history form like I’ve done at all of the others. I could fill it out with my eyes closed. I was thorough and included everything that I’ve done over the past 2 – 3 years. I was expecting to go right into an exam room but this visit was different. Dr. Gallagher came out to get me and we went to his office. He sat next to me, not behind his desk, but next to me, and we had a conversation. I explained everything that has happened to me and Dr. Mike intently listened to me and focused on everything I said. He only interrupted me to ask follow up questions or clarify something I said like describing pain. He told me that he applauded my determination and wanted to spend some time thinking about what I’ve told him. He explained to me a little about the splint therapy but didn’t go too far into detail on it. I left kinda in shock. No payment? No discussion of money? He didn’t even look in my mouth. About a day or two passed and Dr. Mike called me. He said he’s been thinking about my situation, reviewing the notes from our meeting along with my medical history form, what I described fit into what he’s seen in other patients and he really thinks he can help me. He invited me back into his office to discuss. What? Somebody actually took the time to study my case and took interest in fixing me? I’m all in.
Gallagher Dentistry is a busy office, but I never had a hard time getting in for an appointment. No longer waiting for days/weeks to get in to see someone. I was booked for my follow up immediately. The staff is wonderful. Everyone is cheerful, empathetic and it’s actually a nice place to be around. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the dentist office, but I actually like going to Dr. Gallagher’s. Dr. Gallagher and I met and he shared a little more about the splint therapy. What impressed me most is that Dr. Gallagher already had a thriving practice for years. He didn’t need to go to Texas and pay to send his staff to learn this new process for fixing TMD. He could have easily just keep doing what he’s been doing for years and not invest in this splint therapy but Dr. Mike was concerned to hear of so many patients, like myself, who aren’t getting answers and pain relief. He really cares.
Here’s how the splint works. Dr. Mike makes an impression of my teeth and precisely mounts up your bite. He then crafts a splint in house for your upper jaw that has a scooped bite underneath that makes your jaw come together like your bite should. My bite was sloppy and all over the place. Over time the splint will drive your temporal mandibular joint into the proper place and get your jaw working properly without surgery. I’d go to Dr. Mike’s office once or twice a week and have the splint adjusted. He’d place small metal clips to my splint and measure my bite. This metal can be as narrow as tinfoil but makes a big difference in your bite. Based on how my teeth were coming together he’d file away the splint to get my jaw moving properly. Normal people need to be in the splint for approximately two to three months, but I never do anything half-way and my case required about four to five months. Once completed Dr. Mike mounted up my new bite and showed me why I needed Invisalign. My upper teeth never fit over my bottom allowing my clenching and grinding to cause major bruxism. I then embarked on 6 months of Invisalign, which is a great product and so easy to go through. I highly recommend that, too.
It’s now been almost a year since my wife found Dr. Mike’s information online and I’m happy to report that I’m pain free. I’m probably 99% improved since embarking on this journey. After seeing a slew of doctors, medication, CBD oil, hypnosis, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, watching hundreds of videos and reading forums online, it was Dr. Mike and his team who diagnosed and fixed me. I no longer feel facial pain, neck pain, I breathe better (no kidding, my airway felt restricted at times and swallowing food was a challenge at times), I no longer have tingling in the arms, torso or head and face, my hearing has improved (just an observation – I haven’t had it tested yet) my muscles and personal self feels balanced, and overall I feel healthy. Things like shaving are even more pleasurable as I have muscle in my face, and I cut myself far less. Thank you Dr. Mike, Jenny, Suzy, Lisa, Brandy and everyone at Dr. Gallagher’s office. This was a team effort. My wife and I are relocating to Connecticut for work and one of our greatest dilemmas was leaving Dr. Gallagher’s practice. I’m actually considering flying back and remaining a patient.
If you’re in pain and have any of the symptoms that I had please meet with Dr. Mike. It’s really worth the consultation and undergoing this treatment. I can’t recommend it enough. He’s not just my doctor, he’s a friend, too.
Sorry for the lengthy review but I wanted to capture what I feel many are probably going through. If I can help one person find Dr. Mike’s office, then this review served its purpose.