Hi pwc. I'm sorry it's been a couple days before I saw your post - haven't had time to check the boards.
I know what you're saying about difficulty with dental work. In fact, once I started seeing my ortho he recommended that my dentist prescribe Valium for me prior to dental visits to keep the jaw relaxed. Before Valium, I used to walk out of the dentist's office with a migraine type headache after holding my mouth open for even 30 mintues. Now the dentist also uses a bite block to hold my mouth open for me, which helps.
As far as the braces - remember, by this time bite splint therapy had alleviated all my TMD symptoms: pain, limited opening, jaw cracking/clicking, etc. When I started splint therapy, my max oral opening was only 26 mm, and by Dec. '04 (at the time of the braces), I was up to 40 mm. It may have decreased somewhat given the fact that my jaw joints are re-adjusting to the missing splint and some of my symptoms have returned. However, since starting Physical Therapy, I can see why I have pain - many of my neck, thoracic, cervical, facial, and intra-oral muscles are extremely tight and need massage and trigger point release to decrease the contractions. Today's session was very painful as the PT worked inside my mouth to release the digastric and medial pterygoids - OUCH!!!! Very tender in there still, 2 hours later.
So, anyway, the dentist and ortho have learned to work with me regarding holding my mouth open for long periods of time. Also, when the braces were being fitted, I did not have to hold at maximum opening, and my head was tilted back anyway to allow gravity to hold my mouth open too.
Keep me posted on your progress,