FOX23 reporter shares personal story of battle with TMJ

Story Comments Share

Reported by: Janna Clark
Updated: 3/05 10:57 am Published: 2/26 4:36 pm

TULSA, Okla. - Your jaw clicks and pops, you can't open your mouth, you have pain or even sleep apnea or depression: These are all problems associated with TMJ.

FOX23s investigative reporter Janna Clark dealt with this problem for years and finally found a solution. Now she hopes by telling her story she can help others.

For nine years Clark suffered with pain in her jaw joints, known as TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint.

She tried wearing a nightguard her dentist made for her.

“Generally they get in a splint and it all goes away,” said Dr. Caudle.

Tulsa TMJ specialist Dr. Terry Bennett said the only option was surgery.

“You had a big deflection to the right side so when you opened it went like this,” explained Bennett, looking back at images of Clark from two years ago.

A CT scan showed the problem.

“I looked at you and said, Janna, we got a problem,” he said.

Turns out, the soft-tissue discs that move with the jaw joints had disintegrated. MRI images show Clark had ground down her joints and the bones were fusing together.

After research, Clark found Dr. Larry Wolford in Dallas, a maxiofacial surgeon who specializes in fixing TMJ problems.

“Your joints I would describe as a real mess,” said Wolford.

Wolford drew a blueprint of his surgical plan for Clark, and then used a computer model to show the changes on a model of her skull.

His suggestion was a double joint replacement with prosthetic titanium joints.

He said her upper and lower jaws needed to be repositioned too. Her lower jaw had receded so far it was cutting off her airway, creating the risk of dying while sleeping from lack of air.

Dr. Mike Steffen, an orthodontist in Edmond put braces on Clark because her teeth had moved.

Steffen used a computer to show Clark how her teeth had shifted. Since the discs in her jaw were gone, the ligaments were wearing away.

“You see the condyle dissolve away. Which is what happened to you, and your whole face changes,” he said.

After a year of orthodontics, Clark was ready for surgery at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.

The surgery was eight hours, then recovery.

After a five-day hospital stay Wolford monitored Clark’s progress for two weeks.

During that time Clark couldn’t move her mouth, and couldn’t feel most of her face. She used a special tablet to write on to communicate.

Clark was also on a liquid diet and used a syringe, since she couldn't open her mouth.

Feeling slowly came back to Clark’s face. She had to use a cane because of medication she was on while healing.

It took three months before she was cleared to drive and return to work. Even today she is still healing, still regaining feeling and rebuilding stamina.

Clark’s orthodontist and surgeon said she’s progressing.

“I believe you're doing exceptionally well, you're ahead of the curve,” said Wolford.

“You're a very driven patient, you've done everything we've asked, you've been very brave about the whole thing,” said Steffen.

Wolford took photos three months after the surgery and showed Clark the before and after pictures.

“Oh my gosh, that's so crazy. I look like a different person. What strikes me is I know how that person felt. I know how I felt. I just look so sick. I know how much pain I was in. I'm sorry. It's hard to look at them,” she said.

Clark said now she looks more like she used to 10 years ago. She said she’s happy to be living without pain.

If you're suffering from TMJ and you'd like to contact her doctors, here is contact information:

Dr. Larry Wolford, surgeon in Dallas,214-828-9115

Dr. Terry Bennett, TMJ specialist in Tulsa, 918-528-8651

Dr. Mike Steffen, orthodontist in Edmond, 405-341-2587

Dr. Carolyn Caudle,Tulsa dentist, 918-582-3788

Story Comments Share

10 Comment(s)
Comments: Show | Hide

Here are the most recent story comments.View All

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Rusty - 3/5/2014 1:59 AM
0 Votes
My 19 year old son had jaw surgery in July of 2012. His joints had slipped out of their location and it was damaging his cartilage. Dr. Wolford in Dallas, Texas performed his surger. Dr. Wolford was able to put the cartilage and joints back in place. This December just over one year he started feeling pain in his jaw and started feeling the clicking again. He called Dr. Wolford's office and they wanted 500.00 dollars just to see him again. He got another MRI this last Friday and it looks like the tissue between the myteck anchors and is bone is deteriorating and is causing arthritis. They now want to do a complete jaw replacement. He is only 21 years old now and I am really concerned and not sure what to you. Has anyone have the same problem and have other options other than tjr that have helped?  I am wanting to hear from others that have had to have jaw replacement and see how their doing? I want to see how long the artificial jaw last and see if others have had problems. I don't want him to keep going through these surgeries. We are all upset that the first surgery only lasted 1.5 year. I wish we would have Never got the surgery done.

LBender - 3/1/2014 4:55 AM
2 Votes
Fox News needs to report the failed cases of this surgeon that are now on disability or enduring countless surgeries to correct his errors.

bethlehem - 2/28/2014 7:15 PM
2 Votes
Also why the reporter never mentioned that after his surgery, a patient completely loses lateral and front to back movement of the jaw? Fox News should be ashamed of doing this kind of one sided stories and making broader public think, TMJ surgery is a solution.

bethlehem - 2/28/2014 6:57 PM
2 Votes
There are many patients who end up living in excruciating pain and limited mouth opening after total joint replacement surgery. There is a risk of facial paralysis due to nerve damage, hearing loss, loss of sensation, parotid gland damage, vision changes and partial loss of vision and other complications, which go along with the surgery. If surgery is unsuccessful and an artificial joint has to be removed due to infection or adverse body reaction to prosthesis materials, a patient ends up in debilitating state. This story provides no objective evaluation of the procedure and does not touch on the risks of undergoing a TMJ surgery. TMJ surgeries have been performed over the last 40 years causing many people to become invalids, some patients have died or committed suicides after TMJ surgeries. This kind of news feature is biased, unethical, one sided and supported with little scientific evidence.

Shelly3433 - 2/28/2014 10:06 AM
2 Votes
If you go to You can see why these implants should only be used as a last resort. Type in Tmj Concepts and change the date to 1997 to 2014

Shelly3433 - 2/28/2014 10:04 AM
2 Votes
It is actually 54%. If you look on the FDA's site Maude watch there are many reports of serious consequences for patients due to these implants. They are only a last resort. This reporter has her implants installed 3 months ago. It takes a full year for the nerve to regenerate. Pain often returns after this time. I hope she is fine but there are many many problems with this implant. For Immediate Release: Feb. 7, 2011 Media Inquiries: Erica Jefferson, 301-796-4988, Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA FDA orders postmarket surveillance of certain TMJ implants Agency wants data on length of time before removal, replacement "the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered three manufacturers of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) implants to conduct postmarket surveillance studies to determine the length of time before the implants are removed or replaced due to pain or other reasons. The three manufacturers, TMJ Solutions, TMJ Medical, and Biomet Microfixation, make all of the currently approved TMJ devices marketed in the United States. The companies will have 30 days to submit a study plan which will need to be approved by the agency before any postmarket studies can begin. TMJ implants also can be used to treat temporomandibular disorder (TMD) that has not responded to more conservative treatments such as limiting jaw movement, soft diet, jaw splint or adjustments, medicine to reduce pain, or physical therapy. The FDA analyzed TMJ implant-related adverse event reports between April 30, 2004 and Aug. 17, 2010. The analysis described a substantial number of patients who had implants removed within three years or less after implantation because of extreme pain. This is considerably shorter than the expected minimum five-year life span of the device, based on premarket mechanical testing.

Momolove - 2/28/2014 8:49 AM
2 Votes
Prior to tmj implant surgery, did the surgeon share (inform patient) more than 50% of implant patients must have their devices removed in three years or less? Please follow up with explanted tmj patient's stories.

LBender - 2/27/2014 5:57 PM
3 Votes
It worries me that doctors are promoting this surgery for clicking and popping. I saw a top surgeon who stated that he has seen patients who have experienced clicking and popping for years and are fine today. He stated his jaw popped since he was a child and today (40 years later) he is doing fine despite the fact that his jaw still pops. I think a report should be followed up on failed prostheses and jaw surgeries. If this surgery fails, the consequences could pose severe risks worse than the clicking and popping. There are some of these patients that had this surgery and are now on disability. It also should be noted that the prostheses only lasts on average for about 10 to 15 years. Also patients may develop sensitivities to the metals of the prostheses causing failure. It is best to look at the full picture and seek many opinions before thinking about undergoing a surgery that poses potential severe complications.

Shelly3433 - 2/27/2014 3:44 PM
3 Votes
I am shocked that this is being published. It comes off more as an ad for the doctors. Please be sure to read that clicking jaws do not mean that you need treatment. The National Institute of Health has published the following brochure and states "there is no scientific proof that sounds-such as clicking-in the jaw joint lead to serious problems. In fact, jaw sounds are common in the general population. Jaw noises alone, without pain or limited jaw movement, do not indicate a TMJ disorder and do not warrant treatment.

JUSTINADAMS918 - 2/26/2014 7:10 PM
0 Votes
I'm really impressed and moved by this story. I can honestly say I know how you feel. I have really bad jaw and chin pains due to my underbite. When I go to yawn or chew, my jaw pops and sometimes I bite a hole in the back of my mouth. I just spent 7 long years in braces hoping this would correct the issues. It didn't. My orthodontist here in Tulsa, advised that I undergo corrective jaw surgery, also known as "orthognathic surgery'. However, insurance refuse to pay because they claim it's cosmetic. I suffer from really bad migraines because my misaligned jaw and sleep issues. I can't afford the thousands of dollars for the surgery, so I guess I'll have to suffer till then. I'm glad you're doing well and WELCOME BACK!
FOX23 Weather Center
Feels Like: 65°
High: 76° | Low: 55°
Top Stories
Inergize Digital This site is hosted and managed by Inergize Digital.
Mobile advertising for this site is available on Local Ad Buy.