February 13, 2022
Lately, it seems like your jaw hurts no matter what you do, and it’s getting in the way of eating and other daily activities. Not only that, but it feels like no matter how much sleep you think you get, you always wake up feeling tired in the morning. These might seem like two completely different problems, but in fact they could be more closely related than you think – and in fact they might even be making each other worse! To find relief from your jaw pain and get a good night’s rest again, it’s important to fully understand the relationship between TMJ and sleep apnea.
What are TMJ Disorder and Sleep Apnea?
A TMJ disorder is an issue with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ for short. This joint is what keeps your lower jaw connected to the rest of your skull and makes it possible for you to make the mouth movements needed for biting, speaking, and chewing. Because the TMJ is one of the most complex joints in the body, there are many ways it can become damaged or strained; the result is a TMJ disorder that’s typically accompanied by jaw pain, facial pain, earaches, and lockjaw.
On the other hand, sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where there are repeated pauses in your breathing whenever you’re asleep. More often than not, this is caused by relaxed soft tissues in your mouth or throat partially or completely cutting off the flow of air. This can happen numerous times during the night, repeatedly forcing your body to wake up briefly to resume breathing. The ultimate result is a lack of quality sleep, leading to exhaustion and other health problems.
How are These Conditions Linked?
Despite seeming like unrelated problems, TMJ disorder and sleep apnea often go hand in hand. In fact, about 43 percent of people with a TMJ disorder also have trouble sleeping. What’s the connection? When you have sleep apnea, the body tends to push the lower jaw forward in its efforts to reopen the airway; if this happens repeatedly, it can put excessive stress and tension on the jaw, leading to a TMJ disorder. Furthermore, if the TMJ is misaligned, it can affect the position of your tongue while you’re asleep, making it more likely to block your airway. In other words, TMJ and sleep apnea are linked in that one can easily cause or worsen the other.
How Can Sleep Apnea and TMJ Be Treated?
When you need a solution for jaw pain as well as sleep apnea treatment in Albuquerque, an oral appliance could potentially let you address both at once. The simple device can adjust the position of the jaw to decrease stress on the TMJ and ensure the airway remains clear. There are other possible treatments for both conditions that might be recommended based on your situation.
Linked or not, TMJ disorder and sleep apnea can both take the fun out of life and could even take a serious toll on your health. Get in touch with a TMJ dentist in Albuquerque that also practices sleep medicine so that you can start exploring your options for getting out of pain and improving your rest.
About the Author
Dr. Eric Coontz has over 45 years of dental experience, and he’s chosen to dedicate it to treating sleep apnea and TMJ disorders so that his patients can enjoy well-rested, pain-free lives. He maintains mentorships in organizations such as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Physiologic Medicine and Dentistry so that he can stay at the forefront of his chosen specialties. To schedule a consultation with him at Craniofacial Sleep Medicine and TMJ in Albuquerque, visit his website or call (505) 433-2107.
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