Can Orthodontics Help Sleep Issues Associated With TMD?

There’s no denying the importance of a good night’s sleep! Healthy sleep habits are essential for the optimal functioning of your brain and body and can even reduce the risk of certain diseases. The average amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, but most adults require around 7-9 hours a night to feel their best. Unfortunately, many conditions can cause sleep disruptions, including temporomandibular disorders, more commonly known as TMD. 

Here at RiverView Orthodontics, we provide customized TMD treatment solutions to patients throughout Tuscaloosa, Demopolis, and the surrounding area. These treatments relieve the symptoms associated with TMD, helping you get a deeper and more restorative sleep. If you’ve been struggling with tiredness, irritability, and grogginess upon waking, TMD could be the culprit! Let’s look at these disorders and how we can treat them. Keep reading below to learn more! 

What’s TMJ? Is it the same thing as TMD?

You’ll see many people, including dental professionals, using these two abbreviations interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. TMJ is short for the temporomandibular joint, the hinge points connecting our jawbones to our head. This mobile joint is located directly in front of the ears, rotating and gliding while acting as a powerful hinge at the same time. This impressive mobility gives us the ability to do things like speak, yawn, and chew our food. 

The TMJ is surrounded by several complex protectors like tendons, muscles, and joint pads. These parts work together most of the time, but if anything disrupts their ability to function, it can cause a range of symptoms known as temporomandibular disorders. These are a group of conditions that involve issues with your TMJ and the facial muscles that control its movement. 

TMD symptoms can flare up in any interconnected parts, including your jaw, ears, nose, face, neck, shoulders, and upper back. These often include:

  • backaches
  • clicking, popping or grating sounds in your jaw
  • decreased jaw mobility and trouble opening your mouth fully
  • jaws that get locked in an open or closed position
  • pain or tenderness in the jaw, face, or neck
  • persistent headaches

If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule a consultation with Dr. Upton at RiverView Orthodontics to get a proper diagnosis and discuss the available treatment options.

Can Orthodontics Help Sleep Issues Associated With TMD?

How TMD can affect your sleep

Many patients with TMD experience discomfort when they sleep. Recent studies have shown a link between TMD and sleep apnea, which occurs when the airway becomes obstructed as a person is sleeping. When oxygen is cut off, the brain alerts the heart to keep beating, causing the person to gasp or choke for breath. This process can repeat hundreds of times per night, interrupting sleep each time. While it’s uncommon for people to awaken during an episode of apnea entirely, the disruption is often just enough to throw the sleep cycle off. 

Sleep apnea is sometimes caused by a misaligned jaw joint causing the tongue to block the airway at night. In cases like this, treating TMD can also treat sleep apnea! 

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is another common TMD symptom that can disrupt your sleep. Bruxism occurs when your jaw muscles clench, exerting pressure on the teeth, jaw, and joints. Teeth grinding can exacerbate the joints and teeth damage and may even wake you from a sound sleep at times. 

Certain sleeping positions can worsen TMD symptoms. For example, sleeping on your side without proper head and neck support can pressure the jaw joint, causing headaches and pain upon waking. If you sleep with your arms above your head, it can increase strain in the shoulder area. Many TMD patients find that sleeping on their back is the best position, as it reduces tension by keeping the spine in a neutral position.  

What are the treatment options for TMD?

Fortunately, many people with TMD will experience minor symptoms that generally resolve on their own within a few weeks or months. While the condition persists, you can ease symptoms by:

  • eating softer foods
  • applying ice or moist heat to the affected area
  • avoiding extreme jaw movements like wide yawning
  • taking smaller bites of food
  • alternating chewing on each side of your mouth
  • exploring gentle stress-relief techniques

TMD can occur due to injury, arthritis, or an imbalance in the nerves, ligaments, and muscles. It’s essential to receive a proper diagnosis before deciding on a course of action, which is why our doctors will conduct a thorough TMJ examination if you’re showing any symptoms. 

Once Dr. Upton has pinpointed the cause and diagnosed TMD, we’ll develop a personalized treatment plan to help alleviate your discomfort. We take a conservative multidisciplinary approach and aim to use less invasive treatments. Non-invasive treatments won’t cause any permanent changes to the structure or position of the jaw or teeth. 

Even patients with more persistent TMD symptoms won’t need aggressive treatment most of the time! Options for TMD may include oral appliances like custom-made mouthguards combined with physical therapy, trigger point injections, or injections with botulinum toxin. 

Dr. Upton may recommend orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign clear aligners if you need your bite corrected to minimize or eliminate TMD symptoms. We’ll walk you through all of your choices during your consultation.

Can Orthodontics Help Sleep Issues Associated With TMD?

Treat TMD symptoms and sleep better with RiverView Orthodontics

If the symptoms of TMD are affecting your daily life and interrupting your sleep, our expert team is here for you! We can get to the root of your TMD issues and help you reclaim your life. To find out more, get in touch today to schedule your FREE consultation in our Tuscaloosa or Demopolis office!