There’s no denying the importance of a good night’s sleep! Healthy sleep habits are essential for optimal brain and body functioning while reducing the risk of certain diseases. The average amount of sleep needed will vary 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 (TMD) and obstructive sleep apnea. If you’ve been searching for a way to get better sleep, you may ask, “Can orthodontics help with sleep issues?” As a Clinton Township orthodontist, I can tell you that orthodontic treatment may offer solutions for certain sleep-related issues.
What’s TMJ? Is it the same thing as TMD?
Many people, including dental professionals, use 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 simultaneously acting as a powerful hinge. This impressive mobility allows us 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 components 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 interconnected parts, including your jaw, ears, nose, face, neck, shoulders, and upper back. These often include:
- pain or tenderness in the jaw, face, or neck
- persistent headaches
- 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
If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule a complimentary consultation with Lifetime Orthodontics to get a proper diagnosis and discuss the available treatment options.
What are the treatment options for TMD?
Fortunately, many people with TMD will experience minor symptoms that resolve independently within a few weeks or months. During this time, 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 Dr. Wesley will conduct a thorough TMJ examination if you have any symptoms.
Once Dr. Wesley determines the cause and diagnoses your 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.
These non-invasive treatments will not 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. Wesley 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.
Treating sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common than you might think and affects about one out of every five Americans. Out of the dozens of patients, we see anywhere from 4-6 daily affected by sleep apnea. That’s why our practice is committed to doing proper screenings for this disorder for patients in Clinton Township and Grosse Pointe Woods.
At Lifetime Orthodontics, we’re familiar with the common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, so we look at everything from teeth wear and tongue position to airway size and dental occlusion to determine if you have any risk factors for sleep apnea.
Suppose we suspect you have obstructive sleep apnea. In that case, you’ll fill out a thorough questionnaire to give us more information about your sleeping habits, fatigue levels, snoring or choking, and any episodes you can remember where you stopped breathing while sleeping.
We recommend an official sleep test performed at home or in a lab if significant risk factors are present. This will give us the critical data to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. With a diagnosis in place, Dr. Wesley can move forward with treatment!
Using oral appliances to resolve obstructive sleep apnea
In most cases, oral appliances can resolve mild to moderate sleep apnea. We’ll take a digital scan of the upper and lower teeth that will perform an airway analysis that returns an algorithm and gives us measurements showing any anatomical narrowing of the airway.
We send this information to a laboratory where Dr. Wesley will fashion a customized sleep appliance for you based on your specific needs. This appliance positions the lower jaw forward as you sleep, keeping the airway clear and allowing you to breathe freely throughout the night.
Our team will ensure the fit is correct before sending you home with detailed instructions. We’ll generally follow up within two weeks to ensure you’re utilizing the device correctly and getting some relief. We’ll work these out if you need any adjustments until you get the maximum benefit from your appliance! At this point, we’ll repeat your sleep test to ensure your sleep apnea treatment is successful.
An expertly fitted device will help improve your sleep and enjoy better health in general! It can also reduce the risk factors for other medical conditions and complications.
Get a good night’s sleep with Lifetime Orthodontics
If the symptoms of TMD or obstructive sleep apnea affect your daily life and interrupt 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 Clinton Township or Grosse Pointe Woods office!