Ever since 29-year-old Tamara Minge was a child, her jaw had painlessly clicked.
But something she thought was an odd quirk was actually a sign of a medical condition that would later cause her years of pain and thousands of dollars.
Until late 2012, Tamara’s jaw hadn’t caused her pain or discomfort. Then one day, everything changed.
“It wasn’t until I woke up one morning and I went to open my mouth and it just wouldn’t open more than a finger width, physically and from the pain, I just couldn’t open it any more than that,” she told Mamamia.
The single mum turned to a dentist, who guessed that a disc in her jaw had become displaced and referred her to a specialist facial surgeon.
So, Tamara, who lives in Mt Gambier, Victoria with her now-seven-year-old daughter drove the 425 kilometres to Melbourne for a specialist appointment. It's a 10-hour return trip she would later know all too well, as she continued to drive it dozens of times over the next five years.
The office administrator explained she first underwent a procedure that was hoped to set her jaw right - and only made it worse - before a scan revealed she had osteoarthritis in her left and right jaw (temporomandibular) joints.
The condition - which occurs when the cartilage or cushion between joints breaks down - was so far advanced that a full joint replacement was her only option. First on the right side of her jaw and later her left.