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 while also reducing the risk of certain diseases. Although the average amount of sleep needed will vary from person to person, 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 Sturgill Orthodontics, we’re able to provide customized TMD treatment solutions to patients throughout Johnson City, TN and Norton, VA. These treatments address and relieve the symptoms associated with TMD, helping patients achieve 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 take a closer 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 professionals, using these two abbreviations interchangeably. They’re not actually the same thing, however. TMJ is short for the temporomandibular joint, the hinge points that connect 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 properly. 

The TMJ is surrounded by a number of complex protectors like tendons, muscles, and joint pads. These components work together in harmony most of the time, but if anything throws them off course, it can cause a range of symptoms. That’s where TMD comes in! Temporomandibular disorders 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 of the 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
  • 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 complimentary consultation with us 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 fully awaken during an episode of apnea, the disruption is often just enough to throw the sleep cycle off. 

Sleep apnea can be the result of a misaligned jaw joint causing the tongue to block the airway at night. In cases like this, treating TMD can also treat the 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 damage to the joints and teeth and may even wake you from a sound sleep at times. 

There are also certain sleeping positions that can worsen TMD symptoms. For example, sleeping on your side without proper head and neck support can put pressure on 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. During this time, symptoms can often be eased 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 important 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 we’ve pinpointed the cause and diagnosed TMD, we can 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. If you need your bite corrected in order to minimize or eliminate TMD symptoms, our doctors may recommend orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign clear aligners. We’ll walk you through all of your choices during your consultation.

Dr. Sturgill has extensive experience in TMD treatment due to his rotations at the Facial Pain Clinic at Harvard University – Massachusetts General Hospital and additional time at the Southwest Pain Management Clinic. During this time, he worked alongside specialists in other disciplines including psychologists, neurologists, physical therapists, and psychiatrists to help provide patients with the most comprehensive diagnosis and care. Dr. Sturgill is also certified by the American Academy of Facial Esthetics to use botulinum toxin and trigger point injection techniques to help treat headaches and migraines caused by TMD.

Can Orthodontics Help Sleep Issues Associated With TMD?

Treat TMD symptoms and get a good night’s sleep again with Sturgill 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 Johnson City or Norton office!