The Link Between TMJ and Sleep Apnea

TMJ disorder linked to sleep apnea - dentist in Fairview - Sloan Creek Dental

Are you feeling tired throughout the day? Or have trouble sleeping through the night? Well, you’re not alone, as the American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that roughly 22 million Americans have sleep apnea? And, most surprising of all is that 80% of moderate to severe cases are undiagnosed as they are not aware.

While sleep apnea is a disorder that causes many health problems, it can also be connected to other conditions, such as Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ Disorder). If you’re experiencing sleep apnea and TMJ disorder symptoms, continue to read to see how they are linked and how you may benefit from TMJ treatment to improve your quality of life.

Connection Between Sleep Apnea and TMJ Disorder

Those who suffer from sleep apnea often have trouble sleeping because they have an obstructed airway which interrupts their breathing patterns.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), caused by limited airway while sleeping. In order to get enough oxygen while sleeping, our body automatically pushes our jaws forward to open up the airway to allow more oxygen. If OSA is left untreated and depending on the severity of it, sleep apnea sufferers may experience:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Excessive snoring and or gasping for air while sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor concentration
  • High blood pressure
  • Morning headaches
  • Heart Disease

Because of the constant stress of the jaw being pushed forward to open up the airway, it can lead to clenching and grinding of the teeth. This will not only lead to a negative effect on the jaw joints as they become inflamed, but it can also contribute to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), causing your joint, sleep apnea, and overall health to worsen.

When your brain realizes that it’s been deprived of oxygen, it sends a message to the heart, asking it to pump faster and harder. Your body will also automatically contract and clench the jaw muscles to open up the airway. This repetitive clenching movement causes nighttime bruxism and can contribute to tooth wear, jaw joint damage, and other dental problems.

If You Have Sleep Apnea, Look for TMJ Symptoms

Do you wake up with a migraine or headache every single morning? This is far from ordinary and usually indicates something more going on. If you have sleep apnea and are experiencing the following TMJ symptoms, visit a dentist who can treat your sleep apnea and TMJ symptoms.

  • Chronic jaw clenching (bruxism) or Teeth grinding due to stress
  • Lockjaw (trismus)
  • Migraines
  • Tenderness or chronic jaw pain
  • Popping or clicking noises when opening or closing of the mouth
  • Stuffiness in the ears, ear pain, vertigo, or ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Neck, and shoulder pain
  • Facial pain
  • Damage to the tooth and abnormal wear

Improving Your Sleep and TMJ

The good news is that no matter your level of discomfort, there are many treatment options available to help ease your sleep apnea and TMJ symptoms. While some instances of TMJ disorders may resolve on their own, there’s no reason to wait to take action on treating your TMJ issue. For patients suffering from sleep apnea, it’s a chronic disorder where symptoms can range from mild to severe, and will not go away on it’s own. Untreated, sleep apnea may lead to serious health complications, including heart problems. When you see a general dentist who has experience diagnosing and treating sleep apnea and TMD, here are some possible options for treatment.

Recommended TMD Treatment

  • Oral splints and mouth guards
  • Medication such as muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatories
  • Oral surgery for severe cases
  • At-home stretching exercises and  gentle massage

Recommended Sleep Apnea Treatment

  • Oral appliance therapy
  • CPAP machine
  • Oral surgery for severe cases

Treating TMJ Disorder and Sleep Apnea

At Sloan Creek Dental, we offer the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint disorder. After undergoing a sleep study, effective treatment can begin. The most common and effective form of therapy involves using an oral appliance, a custom-made device similar to a mouth guard. The oral appliance fits over the teeth and is worn at night to reposition the jaw to it’s natural position. When the oral appliance is used to treat sleep apnea, repositioning the jaw forward will also bring the tongue forward, which helps keep the airway open.

Common questions on TMJ and Sleep Apnea Connection

The first step in treating sleep apnea is to conduct a home sleep study. The study measures oxygen levels, heart rate, and brain activity. By completing the sleep study at home, your doctor will be able to collect the necessary data for a proper diagnosis. After a medical physician has properly diagnosed you, Dr. Feng will discuss your treatment options and will help you determine the best treatment plan based on your overall health and needs.

Using a CPAP mask can cause pain and discomfort for many people with sleep apnea. Due to its pressure, the CPAP mask can cause the jaw to move back and compress the lower face. Research has shown that extended use of a CPAP mask can cause physical changes in the jaw, neck pain, and jaw pain, leading to TMJ symptoms.

Did you know that your mouth’s health is closely connected to your sleep patterns and jaw function? Because of that, an experienced dental professional can determine whether a sleep disorder, a bite issue, or a more serious health issue is causing you pain.

If the jaw pain is related to an underlying sleep disorder, treating the OSA should help resolve your symptoms. Without this added burden, your body won’t trigger the clenching of your teeth and your temporomandibular joint.

TMJ and Sleep Apnea Treatment In Fairview

An oral appliance can be used as a non-invasive treatment for TMJ. The appliances’ unique features and technology help relieve pressure and tension in the temporomandibular joint. Get a more restful sleep at night with an oral appliance to protect your health, getting rid of your headaches and jaw pain.

If you have any questions, want to learn more about how Dr. Feng in Fairview can treat sleep apnea and TMJ, or to schedule an appointment at our office, please get in touch with our dental office at 972-468-1440, or leave us a message.  

Our dental office is located in Fairview, Texas, and our patients visit us from across the surrounding areas, including Allen, Plano, McKinney, and Lucas.

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