Are you having trouble sleeping through the night without even realizing it? The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that roughly 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, and about 80% of moderate to severe cases are undiagnosed. But as problematic as this disorder can be, it can also be connected to other conditions, such as chronic jaw pain. Read on to learn why someone suffering from sleep apnea might also need TMJ treatment.
How Can Sleep Apnea Be Connected to a TMJ Disorder?
Patients who have obstructive sleep apnea experience pauses in their breathing multiple times each night due to the airway becoming blocked. Not only does this lead to poor quality rest (as the body will keep waking up so that it can breathe), but over time it might contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other potentially deadly issues.
On the other hand, if you have a TMJ disorder (a problem with the temporomandibular joint that lets the mouth open and close), you could suffer from chronic pain in the jaw, ears and head. You might also find it difficult to chew properly.
So how can these conditions be connected? There could actually be many different reasons. Sometimes sleep apnea might share an underlying cause with a TMJ disorder; for example, a misaligned jaw could cause your airway to be blocked while you’re asleep and at the same time lead to clenching and grinding of the teeth (which can have a negative effect on the TMJ). In other cases, sleep apnea could actually cause a TMJ disorder. This is because when the airway collapses, the body’s automatic response is to push the lower jaw forward.
One study even found that 43% of patients who had a TMJ disorder also had sleeping problems. If you have jaw pain or headaches that just won’t go away, especially in the morning, you might want to think about having a sleep study done.
So What Can You Do About These Conditions?
Luckily, there’s a solution that can treat TMJ disorders at the same time as sleep apnea: oral appliance therapy. An oral appliance is worn at night to position the jaw into a comfortable resting place. By moving the jaw and tongue forward, it’ll prevent your breathing from becoming obstructed. It also serves as effective temporomandibular joint treatment by taking the strain off of your jaw. Overall, you’ll notice that the quality of your life will start to substantially improve over time.
Of course, your dentist needs to diagnose your conditions before deciding what the best course of treatment is. If you’ve been dreaming of a better night’s sleep and a life free of constant pain, schedule a consultation today!
About the Author
Dr. Mitch Conditt has firsthand experience in using oral appliance therapy for his own sleep apnea. He is now proud to use the treatment to help other patients in Fort Worth who experience jaw pain and poor-quality sleep on a regular basis. To schedule a consultation at his practice, visit his website or call (817) 527-8500.