Thanks to our “hustle culture,” many Americans get by on far fewer zzzs than is advised, but this isn’t the only reason some adults lack a good night’s sleep. Several conditions can disrupt sleep, including temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. This disorder can cause poor sleep habits, leaving patients struggling with tiredness and irritability during their waking hours. If you’re dealing with a possible case of TMD, we’ve got good news—Moffett & Walley Orthodontics offer custom treatments that can address and relieve many of the symptoms associated with it! Let’s explore what TMD is and how our expert team can treat it to leave you feeling more rested in the morning.
What is TMD? Is it the same thing as TMJ?
While you’re likely to see many people use these two terms interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing. TMJ is short for the temporomandibular joint, the hinge points that connect the jawbones to the head. It’s located directly in front of the ears, where it rotates and glides while acting as a powerful hinge that allows us to speak, yawn, and chew our food properly.
The TMJ is surrounded by tendons, muscles, and joint pads. While these complex protectors usually work well together, they can sometimes be thrown off course. If this happens, it can cause a range of different symptoms. That’s where TMD comes in! These temporomandibular disorders are a group of conditions related to the TMJ and the facial muscles that control its movement.
You can have TMD symptoms flare up in any of these interconnected parts. This includes your jaw, ears, nose, face, neck, shoulders, and upper back. The symptoms may consist of any of the following:
- 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 consultation with our Clinton or Madison office. After an examination, Dr. Moffett will be able to provide you with an accurate diagnosis and discuss the available treatment options with you.
How can TMD affect your sleep?
Sleep disturbances are not unusual for patients with TMD. In fact, several studies have shown a link between TMD and sleep apnea. This condition occurs when a person’s airway becomes obstructed as they’re sleeping. When the 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 over and over again. Although most people won’t wake up during an apnea episode, the disruptions are still enough to throw the sleep cycle off.
Sleep apnea can sometimes be caused by a misaligned jaw joint causing the tongue to block the airway at night. In cases like this, treating the TMD will also treat the sleep apnea! Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is another common TMD symptom that can disrupt your sleep. Teeth grinding clenches the jaw muscles, which exerts pressure on the teeth, jaw, and joints. This can exacerbate damage to the joints and teeth and may also lead to sleep disturbances.
Certain sleeping positions can make TMD symptoms worse, too! For example, sleeping on your side without proper head and neck support can put pressure on the jaw joint. This may 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 are advised to sleep on their back if possible, as this can reduce tension by keeping the spine in a neutral position.
What treatments are available for TMD?
Fortunately, most people with TMD experience only minor symptoms that tend to resolve on their own over time. During a flare-up, symptoms are often relieved by simple at-home treatments that include:
- 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
There are many possible causes of TMD, such as injury, arthritis, or an imbalance in the nerves, ligaments, and muscles. Obtaining a proper diagnosis is essential before you decide to treat TMD. If you’re showing any symptoms when our doctors examine you, they will pinpoint the cause and diagnose the disorder before developing a personalized treatment plan to help alleviate your discomfort! Dr. Moffett prefers to use the least invasive option whenever possible, but even patients who experience persistent TMD symptoms won’t need aggressive treatment most of the time.
After an examination, Dr. Moffett may refer you to an additional specialist, or there may be an in-office solution for you. At times, orthodontic treatment can benefit patients, while we can use oral appliances like custom-made mouthguards, sometimes in combination with physical therapy. Trigger point injections or injections with botulinum toxin are also a possible treatment option. If your bite needs to be corrected in order to eliminate TMD symptoms, our doctors may recommend orthodontic treatment with braces or clear aligners. We’ll walk you through all of your choices for TMD treatment during your consultation.
Feel like yourself again with Moffett & Walley Orthodontics
If TMD symptoms are affecting your daily life by interrupting your sleep, we can help you get to the root of your TMD and achieve a good night’s sleep! To find out more about our TMD treatments and how you can wake up feeling refreshed again, get in touch today to schedule your FREE consultation with our expert team.