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How are TMJ Disorder and Sleep Apnea Connected?

February 11, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — drdeol @ 9:45 pm
Woman with sleep apnea sleeping on her back

TMJ disorder is an issue with the joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull. Meanwhile, sleep apnea is when your breathing is repeatedly interrupted while you slumber. On the surface, these may seem like two completely unrelated problems – but they can sometimes be linked more closely than you realize. Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between TMJ disorder and sleep apnea.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and TMJ Disorder

A number of researchers have found that those who are at notable risk for sleep apnea – or are already experiencing sleep apnea symptoms – also tend to be more likely to suffer from a TMJ disorder.

This could have to do with the fact that both conditions can be linked to bruxism, which is when you unconsciously grind and clench your teeth. When you have a sleep apnea episode, your body may push the lower jaw forward in an attempt to open up the airway. The frequent movement of the jaw can take a toll on your jaw joints, thus resulting in a TMJ disorder that causes you significant discomfort.

On top of that, both sleep apnea and TMJ disorder can potentially be linked to jaw misalignment. Not only can such an alignment issue put a strain on your jaw joints, but it can also increase the risk of the tongue blocking the airway and interrupting your breathing while you’re asleep.

Treating Sleep Apnea and TMJ Disorder

Regardless of how closely linked your sleep apnea and TMJ disorder may be, both should be treated in a timely manner. You should therefore act as quickly as possible to find a solution to your jaw pain and your sleep-disordered breathing.

Sleep apnea is traditionally treated with a CPAP machine, which uses a constant stream of air to keep your airways open. However, if you find CPAP therapy to be too uncomfortable, you do have the option of asking your dentist for a personalized oral appliance that moves the lower jaw forward to prevent breathing interruptions.

Meanwhile, TMJ disorder can be treated in a number of ways depending on the underlying cause of the issue. For example, an occlusal adjustment can be performed to help the teeth come together properly, thus relieving some of the tension on the jaw joint. You may also wear an occlusal splint to protect your teeth and jaw from bruxism.

Sleep apnea and TMJ disorder can both have a negative impact on your quality of life. Don’t lose any time in making an appointment with your dentist so that you can start discussing your treatment options.

About the Practice

At Oak Ridge Dental, our dentists provide comprehensive, stress-free care for families. We offer a wide range of treatments, including oral appliances for sleep apnea as well as TMJ disorder. If you would like to schedule a consultation at our practice in San Ramon, visit our website or call (925) 735-6190.


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