Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2022 at 8:00 pm    

Chronic jaw pain is an unwelcome distraction for many Americans. It can hinder enjoyable experiences like eating our favorite foods, and in some cases, it can contribute to sleep apnea, which robs us of a good night’s rest. If you have both TMJ problems and sleep apnea, the good news is that there are solutions to relieve aches and curb snoring simultaneously.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects nighttime breathing. As patients sleep, they may experience periods of interrupted breathing, leading to snoring and chronic sore throat. Most sleep apnea cases result from a blockage in the airway, though nervous system problems can also cause or exacerbate patients’ symptoms.

Treatment often involves the use of a CPAP device to keep the airway clear, which many wearers find uncomfortable. Oral appliances, implantable devices, surgeries, and medications are other options that have been used to address apnea concerns.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

TMJ disorders affect the muscles and joints of the jaw. Sufferers may feel aches and pains behind the cheeks when they chew, speak, cough, or yawn. They may experience limited movement in their jaw and hear “pops” or “cracks” as they open or close their mouth. In severe cases, TMJ pain can spread to other areas of the head, causing chronic headaches, hearing loss, or balance issues.

Commonly, doctors and dentists will prescribe medication to relieve TMJ pain. They may also refer patients to physical therapy or orthodontic treatments that align the jaw and restore comfortable motion.

How TMJ and Sleep Apnea Can Tie Together

Previously, those with TMJ problems and sleep apnea had to see a dentist and a sleep medicine physician for separate treatments. Today, however, experts have found that sleep apnea and TMJ may share common causes.

In some cases, TMJ leads to sleep apnea. For example, if someone has an overbite, underbite, or crossbite, their jaw may not rest in a healthy natural position. This may contribute to TMJ pain and obstruct the airway, leading to sleep apnea.

Other times, sleep apnea can lead to TMJ problems. As a patient sleeps, their body will do whatever it can to clear obstructions that interfere with breathing. TMJ issues can develop when someone attempts to maintain an open airway by grinding their teeth.

How Our Clinic Can Help with TMJ and Sleep Apnea

The Long Island sleep medicine team at Silent Night Therapy focuses on using oral appliances to treat TMJ and sleep apnea together. Some devices we use include:

  • Herbst appliance – A Herbst connects to your back teeth and gradually moves your jaw forward for long-term success. During regular adjustment appointments, your dentist will adjust screws or add shims to keep the device working.
  • Dynaflex dorsal appliance – The Dynaflex dorsal appliance gently aligns the jaw into an optimum position for sleeping. Since it creates a barrier between the top and bottom teeth, it can guard against grinding that contributes to TMJ. You will put on the device before bed and remove it in the morning.
  • EMA straps – This device comprises two trays that are fastened together with straps that work similarly to rubber bands in conventional braces. However, they use a gentler material and focus on keeping your airway open.

Oral appliances may go hand-in-hand with physical therapy. Using a combination of treatments, we can align the jaw to clear obstructions and strengthen jaw muscles to boost your long-term comfort.

Contact a New York Sleep Specialist Today

Dr. Clifford Brown and the Silent Night Therapy team help patients reclaim their quality of life when sleep apnea and TMJ problems occur together. Call our office at 631-983-2463 for a free consultation appointment, or take our three-minute sleep quiz today.