Sleep apnea and TMJ seem to have their own unique sets of symptoms. You may be surprised to discover, however, that the two afflictions have quite a bit in common – and one may even be responsible for causing the other.
A Brief Primer on TMJ
Temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly known as TMJ, is a painful problem that can develop from a poor bite or an unusual lower jaw alignment. Because TMJ often happens unconsciously at night during sleep, the sufferer may grind their teeth while sleeping or suffer from severe headaches or jaw pain.
TMJ isn’t fixed with over-the-counter pain relievers. Treatment for the problem must happen with the help of a dentist or oral surgeon.
Common signs of TMJ include:
- A clicking or popping jaw can indicate that the lower half of the jaw is not in the right position.
- Headaches and neck aches are often the result of fatigued muscles that are working too hard to support TMJ joints that aren’t in the right place.
- Teeth that don’t fit together well indicate that your bite may be off, which is a sign that your TMJ joints aren’t in the proper spot either.
- Snoring can be a sign that the lower jaw position is skewed. A jaw that it too far back means the tongue is further back too and can lead to snoring.
The Connections Between Sleep Apnea and TMJ
Snoring is indeed a sign of TMJ. Snoring is also a big indicator that obstructive sleep apnea is present. The opening of your airway is altered by the position of your TMJ and tongue – if they’re in the wrong spots, breathing airways are restricted and snoring will be the result. A breathing sleep disorder can result from an airway that is partially obstructed, whether by the tongue, extra tissues, or a narrow arch of teeth.
People who do suffer from sleep apnea may unconsciously grind or clench their teeth while they sleep, trying to find the best position to keep their airway open so breathing is not obstructed. This side effect can lead to TMJ disorder or exacerbate an existing but TMJ problem.
Sleep Apnea Treatment That Minimizes TMJ Disorder
The type of oral appliance that is often recommended as sleep apnea treatment does an excellent job of relaxing jaw muscles by repositioning the jaw, easing tension in the jaw joint, and creating proper alignment. (A course of Invisalign treatment also repairs the bite efficiently and under the radar.) Plus, a customized mouth guard can prevent excess soft tissues from obstructing airflow.
Because symptoms of TMJ and sleep apnea often mimic each other and overlap, visit a dentist who is experienced in managing sleep apnea cases. Deep knowledge of the tissues of the mouth and the physiology of the jaw are essential to get the most helpful and effective treatment for your conditions. Make an appointment with Dr. Carole Sherrod Jewell at Red Bank Dentistry to make an appointment and discuss any concerns you have about sleep apnea or TMJ.