Sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It happens when you stop breathing for a short time while you sleep, which lowers your body’s oxygen. Sleep apnea has many causes, such as being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, smoking or having a stuffy nose. But recent research suggests that sleep apnea and TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) may be related.
TMJ is a condition that affects the jaw joint connecting the jawbone to the skull. It can cause pain in the jaw, face and neck, as well as make it hard to open and close the mouth. While the exact causes of TMJ are not well understood, it is thought that it may be related to dental problems, jaw injuries or stress.
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and TMJ
Recent studies have suggested that there may be a link between sleep apnea and TMJ. In particular, it has been recommended that people with TMJ may be at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea due to the jaw position during sleep.
When a person with TMJ lies down to sleep, the jaw may shift backward, which can cause the airway to become blocked. This can lead to sleep apnea as the body attempts to compensate for the lack of oxygen by waking the person up to take a breath. Over time, this can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and other health problems.
Furthermore, the pain and discomfort that come with TMJ can make it hard for people to get a good night’s sleep, which can make the symptoms of sleep apnea worse.
Treating TMJ to Improve Sleep Apnea
Fortunately, several treatments are available for TMJ to help improve sleep apnea symptoms. These treatments include dental appliances, physical therapy or medication that reduces swelling and pain.
Dental splints, or oral appliances, are often used to treat TMJ and sleep apnea. These devices are designed to hold the jaw in a more forward position, which can help keep the airway open during sleep. They may also help to reduce pain and discomfort associated with TMJ.
Physical therapy can also be helpful for people with TMJ, as it can help to strengthen the muscles around the jaw and improve jaw mobility. This can reduce pain and discomfort as well as enhance the quality of sleep.
Finally, medication may reduce the inflammation and pain associated with TMJ. This can minimize discomfort and improve sleep quality, which may reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
Even though the connection between sleep apnea and TMJ is not fully understood, there is evidence that the two may be linked. Therefore, seeking treatment to improve both disorders is essential if you suffer from TMJ and experience sleep apnea symptoms. Please, reach out to Dr. Bob Perkins at Southern California TMJ and Sleep Center about treatment options today.
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