Are Sleep Apnea and Temporomandibular Disorder Interconnected?

sleep apnea and tmj disorder causing pain

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a joint that connects your lower jaw to the skull. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is caused when you feel a sudden discomfort or pain in this area of your mouth. TMD can cause tenderness, facial pain, and difficulty in moving the joint. On the other hand, sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing starts and stops repeatedly during sleep. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s rest, then you are probably suffering from sleep apnea. But how are sleep apnea and TMD interconnected? You might have this question in mind. Both the diseases have some common symptoms. When the airway is obstructed, the body automatically pushes the lower jaw forward to open it up. The endless motion of the TMJ through the night can give a lot of pain and cause stress and tension. This is how sleep apnea and TMD work together to cause discomfort. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 10 million people have suffered from TMD. 43% of the people suffering from TMD have problems sleeping.

How are Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) and Sleep Apnea Connected?

The two conditions are treated separately but are connected. Research says that victims of TMD suffer from sleep apnea. On the other hand, 75% of patients who were diagnosed with sleep apnea also reported pain associated with jaw joints. This prompted some dentists and doctors to advise those with TMD to be tested for sleep apnea.

The constant motion of the TMJ can cause stress, tension, headaches, and pain in joints. TMD is also linked with chronic fatigue that can impact your overall health. This could also be the physical position or misaligned jaw that prevents the airway from being open while you sleep. When you think about the connection between your airway to the position of your jaw, then the connection between sleep apnea and TMD becomes very clear.

Age is a risk factor for all sexes. Older males are more likely to experience sleep apnea than females. The typical females who suffer from TMD are aged between 25-30. The symptoms of sleep apnea are fatigue and excessive snoring while TMD causes a headache, ear ringing, and dizziness. Headaches are the common symptoms of TMJ disorder and sleep apnea.

How can you Improve TMJ and Sleep?

To seek sleep apnea treatment or TMJ disorder treatment first of all consult a doctor and Let them know all of the problems you are having. Sleep is a very important part of your routine. It will not only help you fight these two problems but others as well. Improve your sleep schedules and rest better at night to fight better against these disorders. Apart from this, there are other possible treatments too which are listed below.

Possible treatment for TMD

  • Oral splints and mouthguards
  • Anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing medications
  • Corticosteroid injections for pain relief
  • Botox injections for muscle relief
  • Counseling to reduce the stress that causes clenching and grinding
  • Gentle massage and stretching exercises at home

TMJ sleep apnea is a serious condition so one should not wait to look for immediate possible treatments as procrastination to it might increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and many other serious deadly diseases.

Possible treatments for sleep apnea are:

  • Oral appliance therapy
  • Wearing a device that moves the lower jaw forward or prevents the tongue from blocking the airway while sleeping.

Surgical options for severe cases

  • UPPP
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) removes extra tissues from the back of the throat and helps relieve snoring.

  • Tracheostomy
  • This treatment involves puncturing an opening in the windpipe to bypass the obstruction in the throat.

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
  • A facemask to be worn at night that gently delivers positive airflow to keep the airways open throughout the night. The positive airflow props the airways open. CPAP is highly effective and requires a dental device to keep the lower jaw positioned forward.

This clarifies that TMJ pain and sleep apnea are inter-connected and serious. If you have any of these symptoms you should consult a doctor soon and get an appointment. To turn your life back to normal, schedule your appointment with Perfect Smiles Dental and bid goodbye to your pain.


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