TMJ and Sleep Apnea Treatment

Pain in your jaw joints can significantly alter your quality of life. It is difficult to chew, laugh, or talk when your jaw joint (called the temporomandibular joint or TMJ) is throbbing. Although your TMJ and the pain associated with it can be very complicated, the treatment can often be simple.

Why Does My Jaw Hurt?

TMJ pain has many causes, and sometimes more than one. Most commonly, patients experience jaw pain from clenching or grinding their teeth (referred to as bruxism). We also see patients with painful clicking and popping of their joints. This is often due to a disc in the joint that will dislocate and pop back into place. This dislocating disc can be due to past trauma, clenching, grinding, or some other habit.

Many patients have no idea that they clench or grind their teeth because it occurs at night while they are asleep (called nocturnal bruxism).  There are signs you can look for, though, that will help you determine if you are experiencing this overnight. Dr. Shiflett will do a thorough exam looking for the items listed below, but you can help him out by checking for them as well!

  • Pain in jaw muscles or joints in the morning
  • Flat, worn teeth
  • Teeth that are shortening over time
  • Chipped teeth
  • Notches or worn areas of your teeth near your gums

Why Do I Clench and Grind My Teeth?

Clenching and grinding is an extremely common habit. Some believe this bruxism is due to a stressful job or lifestyle, but more often it is due to your body having insufficient oxygen during the night. When you have trouble breathing while asleep, it is referred to as sleep apnea.

There are parameters the medical community uses to define sleep apnea, but in general, if you suffer from this sleep disorder, your ability to breathe is diminished or even eliminated at times during the night. This is extremely dangerous and increases your risk of numerous health problems, including having a stroke.

When your body senses it is not getting enough oxygen while you are asleep, it goes into survival mode. It releases the fight or flight hormone (epinephrine), which increases your heart rate and fights to open your airway.

To open your airway, your body contracts muscles associated with your jaw and slides it forward and side to side. This action allows more air to reach your lungs and gives your body the oxygen it needs, but also bangs your teeth together.  As you can imagine, this is very hard on your heart and jaw muscles and disrupts your ability to get restful sleep.

How Do You Treat TMJ Pain and Sleep Apnea?

TMJ pain and sleep apnea are frequently related, as explained above. At Shiflett Family Dental, we like to use a take-home sleep test (called a pulse oximeter) to screen for sleep apnea and its related issues.

Since we feel identification of sleep apnea and TMJ issues are so important, Columbus, OH dentist, Dr. Shifflett, offers this service for free. Using the results from your take-home sleep test, he can recommend the appropriate treatment. It is important to note that only a licensed physician can diagnose sleep apnea, so we may refer you for a full sleep study and diagnosis.

The first treatment for TMJ pain In Columbus, OH is usually a protective guard for your teeth to wear at night. We refer to this device as a night guard or bite plane. This bite plane will prevent your teeth from touching together and allow your muscles to be more relaxed. It only takes a couple of quick impressions for us to make a night guard for you, so we can help you get relief in no time.

There are tons of appliances out there for the treatment of sleep apnea. The most effective is, without a doubt, the CPAP. Unfortunately, patients do not like them because they are bulky, uncomfortable, and loud. At Shiflett Family Dental, we can make you a custom device (called a mandibular advancement device or MAD) to open your airway and help your body get the oxygen it needs.

I Hate My CPAP. Are There Any Alternatives?

Yes, there are! As mentioned above, the CPAP mask is the best treatment we have available for sleep apnea sufferers. Regrettably, it is bulky, uncomfortable, and loud so, many patients do not wear them as they should. CPAP machines can also interrupt your partner’s sleep and disrupt intimacy.

If you cannot or will not wear your CPAP, Shiflett Family Dental has an option for you. We can make you a custom oral device that you wear at night that will keep your airway open and oxygen coming into your lungs.

The compliance with wearing our devices is very high, making them more effective than CPAP in many cases. Many patients also find that traveling with a small oral appliance is much easier than a bulky CPAP, so they have one made just to use on the road!

To learn more about TMJ and sleep apnea treatment in Columbus, OH, call our office at (614)262-1807.