TMJ and Sleep: What You Can Do About It

 In Sleep Apnea

After a long day, sometimes the only thing you can think about is laying down for a solid night of rest. Unfortunately, many people grind their teeth while they are sleeping and this can translate to pain and headaches when they wake up in the morning. This syndrome is called Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome (TMJ). Let’s examine TMJ and sleep.

What is TMJ?

TMJ often happens because teeth are misaligned. If the grinding is not stopped or corrected, the structure of the teeth can erode and lead to serious dental problems, including eroded jawbones and loose teeth. TMJ is often caused by stress — either prolonged or unexpected.

What are the symptoms of TMJ?

TMJ often causes headaches, neck pain, jaw pain, and an intermittent ringing in the ears. Sometimes these symptoms can be incredibly painful. They cause quality-of-life issues and can greatly disturb day-to-day activities.

How is TMJ diagnosed?

Living with jaw pain and TMJ disorders can truly be debilitating. It impacts how you eat and how you talk, which can contribute even more to stress that you might already be feeling from something else.

If you have sleep disorders that may be caused by TMJ, your dentist won’t need to monitor your sleep to see if you’re grinding your teeth. But the dentist will look for signs of TMJ through a thorough jaw examination. X-rays, a closer look at your bite, and a review of your dental history can all help the dentist come up with a TMJ diagnosis.

How can TMJ be treated?

Thankfully there are several options for treating TMJ. A bite guard or similar oral appliance is one of the most common and effective ways of halting teeth grinding while you sleep. Your dentist may also offer some helpful relaxation techniques that can minimize stress effects and help you relax while falling asleep. Depending on the severity of the case, your dentist may also recommend a muscle relaxant prescription.

Your dentist can also help realign your teeth — both to help improve your bite and prevent TMJ from reoccurring. This could require adjusting your natural teeth to help the upper and lower teeth come together better. Your dentist may also need to add new restorations to the mouth.

If you think you have been living with facial pain or TMJ, it’s important to get a dental exam right away. The prolonged impact of grinding teeth could be harmful to your teeth and your smile. Plus, it could be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. Contact our experienced dental team at Dental Sleep Medicine of Vancouver today for more information!

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Man suffering from sleep apnea while trying to work on a computerWoman sleeping peacefully wearing her dental device