Do you have jaw problems? Do you have sleep problems? You should know that the two might be related – and you should also know that your dentist may be able to help!
What Is TMJ?
“TMJ” is a catch-all term that describes disorders of the jaw joint. Besides jaw pain (which can happen all the time, but especially when you are under stress or when you are talking or chewing), you might also have constant headaches, facial pain, and muscle aches in the shoulders and neck. Your jaw may lock up sometimes, and you may hear a clicking or popping sound when you open and close it. Possible causes of TMJ include years of bruxism (tooth grinding), trauma or injury to the jaw, or a bite that is misaligned.
Research has shown that over 40% of patients who have TMJ also have problems sleeping, although it is hard to say which comes first. In the worst case scenario, a patient might have sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops and your brain wakes you up so that you can resume breathing normally. This only happens for a brief amount of time so that you aren’t even aware you have woken up, but it happens so often during the night that you feel exhausted all of the time. You might also have headaches, difficulty concentrating, a dry mouth, and/or a sore throat.
Your dentist may be able to help you with either one of these problems – TMJ or sleep apnea – which, in turn, may offer some relief for the other problem as well. Oral appliance therapy involves a simple device that you wear over your teeth at night. This type of treatment can be used to help keep the airway open while you sleep, preventing apnea, and oral appliances can also be used to position your jaw correctly so that your jaw muscles can relax, alleviating your TMJ symptoms.
If you have jaw pain, or if you’ve noticed that you haven’t been sleeping well lately, Dr. Konig may be able to help. Contact the Konig Center for Cosmetic and Comprehensive Dentistry in Houston, Texas, for a consultation. Call (713) 668-2289 for an appointment today!