Discovering new, better ways of treating your TMJ and sleep apnea symptoms.

There’s nothing quite like sleeping in as late as you want and waking up refreshed! When we sleep well, we feel more positive and ready to jump into the tasks we have planned for the day. You’re likely aware that both TMJ pain and sleep apnea can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, but did you know that there’s evidence that the two conditions are often connected? At first, this news might sound negative, but knowing about this connection can have a huge positive impact on your treatment—especially if you’re undergoing treatment for TMJ disorder or sleep apnea but aren’t seeing much improvement. It allows your doctor and dentist to look at your symptoms from a new perspective and may open up new ways of approaching your treatment that are more specialized for you. These treatments could be the key to helping you get deep, restful sleep again! But how are these two seemingly very different conditions connected, and what does that mean for you?

There’s a connection between TMJ disorder and sleep apnea.

On the surface, TMJ disorder and sleep apnea sound like completely different conditions, right? After all, one involves the joints and muscles of your jaw while the other involves your breathing. It may be surprising, but there’s actually an increasingly recognized link between the two conditions. One study even found that 52% of participating sleep apnea patients had TMD! It’s believed that part of the reason for this is that sleep apnea often causes you to clench or grind your teeth at night. This puts constant, increased pressure on your temporomandibular joint and the surrounding muscles, which can directly cause or worsen existing issues with the joint and result in TMD.

It’s wise to consider your symptoms and seek medical advice from your doctor or dentist.

TMJ disorder and sleep apnea have several overlapping symptoms, so it’s not uncommon for sleep apnea to go undiagnosed in someone who has already been diagnosed with TMD—or vice versa. After all, you generally stop looking for answers to explain your symptoms when you’ve received a diagnosis. You already have the answer, right? This is certainly the case for many people, but for others, there’s more to their symptoms. TMJ disorder is particularly well-known for the way its symptoms can overlap with sleep apnea. A few of these overlapping symptoms include frequent headaches, especially in the mornings, fatigue from sleeping poorly, and jaws that are sore or make clicking sounds in response to movement.

Paying attention to your symptoms could help you determine whether or not you need to visit a doctor or dentist. If you’re being treated for sleep apnea and notice that you’re still getting frequent headaches, experiencing jaw pain, sore muscles in your face, neck, shoulders, and back, or damage and wear to your teeth, you should schedule an appointment with a TMD dentist in Maryville, MO, to discuss the possibility that you’re also suffering from TMD. If you’ve been diagnosed with TMD, it’s often harder to pick out the symptoms of sleep apnea, so it’s wise to visit a sleep specialist to be safe. When in doubt, always visit your doctor or dentist! It’s better to be safe than sorry, and getting a new diagnosis will help improve your overall treatment plan and give you greater relief from your symptoms in the long run.

The best treatment should take the TMJ and sleep apnea connection into account.

Even if you don’t have both TMJ disorder and sleep apnea, the best treatment for your condition should at least consider the connection. The position of your jaw impacts how open your airway is, so oral appliances are often used to treat mild to moderate sleep apnea. Similarly, splints or nightguards can be worn at night to help relieve TMD symptoms. Since the position of your jaw is so important, treatments for TMJ disorder and sleep apnea both need to be carried out in a way that takes your airway and the position of your jaw into account. Whether you have TMJ disorder, sleep apnea, or both, the best treatment will ensure that it keeps your airway as open as possible without straining your jaw by holding it in an awkward position all night. It also provides maximum relief for your symptoms if you have both TMJ disorder and sleep apnea.

You have a surprising number of treatment options.

CPAP machines are perhaps the most well-known sleep apnea treatment, but they’re not necessary—or a good fit—for everyone. MADs, which stands for mandibular advancement devices, are oral appliances that can be worn to sleep to address mild to moderate sleep apnea as well as TMD. They resemble mouthguards and work by pushing your jaw slightly forward into a position that keeps your jaw relaxed and your airway open. Over time, MADs may even be able to strengthen the muscles in your airway. This improves the ability of those muscles to keep your airway open on their own, potentially reducing or even eliminating your sleep apnea altogether. Tongue-retaining devices can also be used to keep your tongue from falling back and blocking your airway, but these are less common. Everyone’s case is different, however, so your ideal treatment might not look exactly like someone else’s. When necessary, Dr. Harris can work with your sleep specialist to design the best treatment for you.

The connection between TMJ disorder and sleep apnea may sound strange at first, but keeping this connection in mind and designing treatments around it can improve your symptoms and allow you to regain the feeling of a full night’s sleep while protecting you from future diagnoses. If you’d like to learn more about this connection or suspect that you’re suffering from TMD, feel free to call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Harris at any time.