Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) and sleep apnea are two conditions that can impact your overall health and well-being. While they may seem unrelated, recent research has found a significant link between temporomandibular joint disorder and sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea:
Recent studies have suggested that there may be a link between TMJ and sleep apnea. One study found that nearly 40 percent of patients with TMD also had sleep apnea.
TMJ disorder can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw, neck, and shoulders, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. It can also lead to muscle tension and spasms in the upper body, including the muscles that control breathing. This can make it harder to breathe normally during sleep, leading to snoring, gasping, or choking.
On the other hand, sleep apnea can also contribute to the development of TMD. This is because sleep apnea can cause repeated teeth grinding and clenching, which can strain the TMJ and lead to painful symptoms.
Signs that TMD may be caused by sleep apnea include:
For TMD, treatment may include physical therapy, medications, or oral appliances such as splints or mouth guards.
For sleep apnea, treatment may include:
For some, treating one condition may also help alleviate the symptoms of the other. For example, treating sleep apnea with a CPAP machine may help reduce teeth grinding and clenching, which can help alleviate TMJ disorder symptoms.
If you suspect you have TMD or sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor. They can perform an examination and refer you to a sleep specialist or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. The doctor you’re referred to will depend on your TMD symptoms.
There’s some evidence to suggest that treating sleep apnea can help alleviate symptoms of TMD. When sleep apnea is treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or other methods, it can reduce the tension and strain on the jaw joint during sleep. This can improve TMD symptoms, such as pain and difficulty opening the mouth.
For individuals with TMD, sleeping on their back with a small pillow or rolled towel under the neck for support is recommended. Sleeping on the stomach should be avoided as it can put unnecessary strain on the neck and jaw. Consult a sleep specialist for more tips on managing TMD and sleep apnea.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of TMJ or sleep apnea, seek medical attention from our Grand Haven dentist. Dr. John Leitner can properly diagnose your condition and recommend the best treatment for your needs. Don’t hesitate to speak up and seek help — these conditions can significantly impact your quality of life and overall health.