Can Orthodontics Help Sleep Issues Associated With TMD?

Healthy sleep habits contribute to optimal brain and body functioning while reducing the risk of certain diseases. The exact amount of sleep needed will vary from person to person, but most adults require between seven and nine hours a night to feel their best. Unfortunately, many conditions can cause sleep disruptions, including temporomandibular disorders, commonly known as TMD. 

Here at Innovative Orthodontics, we can provide customized TMD treatment solutions to patients throughout Savannah, Rincon, and Pooler, GA. These treatments relieve the symptoms associated with TMD, giving you deeper and more restorative sleep. If you’ve been struggling with tiredness, irritability, and grogginess upon waking, TMD could be the culprit! Let’s examine these disorders and how Dr. Waters and Dr. Clayton can help. Keep reading below to learn more! 

The difference between TMJ and TMD

Many people, including dental professionals, use these 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. This impressive mobility allows us to 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, or TMD. 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 parts that connect to the TMJ, 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
  • 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

If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with Innovative Orthodontics to get a diagnosis and discuss the available treatment options.

How TMD can affect your sleep

Many patients with TMD experience discomfort when they sleep. Studies show a link between TMD and sleep apnea, which occurs when the airway becomes obstructed as a person sleeps. 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. While it’s uncommon for people to wake up during an episode of apnea entirely, the disruption is enough to throw the sleep cycle off. 

Sleep apnea is sometimes the result of a misaligned jaw joint that causes 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 wear down the joints, damage your teeth, and may even wake you from your sleep. 

Certain sleeping positions can worsen TMD symptoms. For example, sleeping on your side without proper head and neck support can pressure the jaw joint and cause 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.  

Can Orthodontics Help Sleep Issues Associated With TMD?

Treatment options for TMD

Fortunately, many people with TMD will experience minor symptoms that resolve on their own 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

It’s essential to receive a proper diagnosis before deciding on a course of action for your TMD. When you schedule a consultation with Innovative Orthodontics, Dr. Waters or Dr. Clayton will conduct a thorough TMJ examination to assess symptoms. Once your orthodontist determines the cause of your TMD, we’ll develop a personalized treatment plan to help alleviate your discomfort. 

At Innovative Orthodontics, 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. Our doctors 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 Innovative Orthodontics

If TMD symptoms 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. Get in touch today to schedule your FREE consultation at our office in Savannah, Rincon, or Pooler to find out more!