Your jaw is at a crucial crossroads of the body. Because of its position at the convergence of many of your body’s crucial systems, jaw dysfunction has the ability to cause health impacts far beyond your mouth.
Two types of jaw dysfunction that we are able to treat are neuromuscular problems and sleep disordered breathing problems such as snoring and sleep apnea. These two types of problems are closely related, and in many cases they’re a product of improper development of the teeth and jaws. We can help prevent these problems in children or treat them in adults. Depending on the nature of your problems and your age, we may recommend different treatments that may address the immediate problem only or may be directed at making long-term changes to your jaw to permanently alleviate the condition. Long-term changes can be accomplished with dental restorations, myofascial therapy, and functional orthodontics. Often, we may recommend noninvasive, reversible treatments at first and move on to more permanent treatments once we have confirmed the success of initial treatments.
If you are looking for help with bite problems like TMJ or sleep problems like sleep apnea or snoring in New City, please email us or call (845) 634-6006 today for an appointment at New City Family Dental.
How TMJ and Sleep Apnea Are Connected
TMJ and sleep apnea are reciprocally related. That means that TMJ can cause sleep apnea, and sleep apnea can cause TMJ, and as they remain untreated, both conditions can get worse. And, sometimes, unskilled treatment of the one can contribute to the other.
When someone develops TMJ, the jaw typically shifts backward. Because the jaw is the primary bony support for the airway, which is mostly soft tissue, your jaw position determines the size and shape of your airway. A retruded jaw leads to a narrow airway.
When your airway is narrow, it creates turbulent airflow that creates the sound of snoring. A narrow airway is also more likely to collapse during sleep, causing sleep apnea.
When you experience apneas at night–stoppages in breathing–your jaw clenches to help open the airway. Because you can experience hundreds of apneas a night, you may spend much of the night with your jaw clenched, which contributes to a worsening of TMJ.
Successful Treatment Takes Both into Account
Many people with TMJ have sleep apnea, and vice versa. Just because you’ve been diagnosed with one but not the other does not mean you don’t have both. It’s important to make sure your treating doctor has considered potential overlap, and is working to ensure that treatment helps both conditions.
An oral appliance for treating either condition will be worn all night. If you have a sleep apnea appliance that isn’t fitted to promote healthy jaw position, then wearing the appliance can cause damage to the jaw joints. And if your neuromuscular appliance doesn’t take your airway into account, it can actually worsen your sleep apnea.
These potential problems are not just limited to oral appliances. Surgical TMJ treatment may lead to poor airway shape. And the pressure from a CPAP mask can contribute to poor jaw position and may actually lead to the development or worsening of TMJ.
Cross-Trained Dentists for Optimal Treatment
If you are considering oral appliance therapy as an alternative to CPAP for sleep apnea, it’s important to make sure that your sleep dentist understands neuromuscular dentistry. Neuromuscular dentistry is the study of the integral relationship among the various parts of the jaw system, including the teeth, muscles, nerves, bones, and joints. It helps a dentist design an oral appliance that fosters a healthy relationship among these various components.
And your neuromuscular dentist has to understand that an oral appliance worn at night can potentially lead to sleep apnea.
At New City Family Dental, our dentists are trained in both neuromuscular dentistry and sleep dentistry to ensure comprehensive treatment that isn’t causing more problems than it’s solving.