TMJ and Sleep Apnea

TMJ disorders (TMD) affect more than 10 million people in the United States. You might notice aching or swelling in your jaw, frequent headaches, pain while chewing, or strange popping noises from your jaw. These are all TMD symptoms, and you should seek treatment for them.

What Are TMJ Disorders?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the jaw joint that allows your lower jaw to open and close. This complex joint allows for a wide range of movement, but its complexity also leaves it open to developing a variety of problems. Wear and tear, certain diseases, and trauma can damage the joint and lead to jaw pain, inflammation, and other issues.

TMJ disorders are often caused by excessive grinding and clenching, often during sleep. This clenching puts a lot of strain on the joints and the muscles surrounding them and can lead to chronic aching or sharp pain when chewing. Like other joints, the TMJ can also develop arthritis, which can cause similar symptoms.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which the upper airway closes during sleep. When this happens, breathing is paused, and the sleep apnea sufferer jolts awake. Many people with sleep apnea fall asleep again after these events and don’t remember them after waking up.

Sleep apnea can lead to poor sleep quality and cause you to feel tired throughout the day, which will greatly impact your quality of life. If it is left untreated, sleep apnea can have more serious health effects. The drop in oxygen levels when you stop breathing causes a spike in blood pressure, which can contribute to a wide range of heart issues.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and TMJ

TMJ and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are often connected. Sleep apnea generally occurs when the muscles in the upper airway relax, blocking it. This is often due to the positioning of the jaw during sleep. That same jaw position causes strain on the muscles around the TMJ, leading to inflammation and pain.

TMJ and Sleep Apnea Treatment

Many patients will find themselves experiencing both TMJ and sleep apnea symptoms at the same time. Oral appliances are a common option for treating both sleep apnea and TMJ.

The oral appliance is worn at night and holds the jaw in a specific position, preventing the relaxing of the throat muscles and keeping the airway open. It also prevents strain on the muscles around the TMJ and alleviates grinding.

You might have noticed mouthguards or night guards on pharmacy shelves, but these aren’t the same as the TMJ and sleep apnea treatments you can receive from a dentist. We create custom-fit mouthguards made with high-quality materials that better address your needs and provide improved comfort.

Find the Treatment You Need in Central New Jersey

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a TMJ disorder or sleep apnea, the team at Smiles Family Dentistry can help. Schedule a consultation today to find out more about your treatment options in Monmouth Junction, Robbinsville Twp and Hillsborough, NJ.

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