You might not think a dentist can do anything to help your sleep, but you’d be wrong. Sleep dentistry focuses on how the jaw system, including its muscles and bones, can either interfere with or promote restful sleep. A combination of TMJ, snoring, and sleep apnea treatments can be used to help ensure you get restful sleep at night and awake healthy and refreshed in the morning.
Sleep Bruxism and TMJ
Do you grind your teeth at night? Do you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw, possibly accompanied by headaches and muscle tension in the neck? If so, then you might be suffering from sleep bruxism, which not only damages your teeth, it can lead to less restful sleep. Sleep bruxism can be related to TMJ, but it may also be related to sleep apnea.
Your Jaw’s Role in Sleep
During the day, there are many mechanisms for holding your airway open. Gravity partly pulls your airway open, and the muscles of your neck and throat keep your airway from collapsing.
But at night, your muscles relax and gravity works to pull your airway closed. Your airway is held open only by the rigidity of the throat and the support of your bones, including the jawbone and the hyoid bone. Since the hyoid bone is not connected to any other bones, the amount of support it can give is limited, so most of the support for your airway comes from your jaw.
The position of your jaw determines the amount of support it can give to your airway. If it’s too far back, your airway can narrow and even close, restricting your air supply or cutting it off completely.
Snoring occurs when your airway narrows. Air can no longer flow smoothly through your airway. Instead, the airflow gets rough and turbulent. This causes the tissues of your airway to vibrate, creating the sound you hear.
Snoring is often dismissed as an annoyance, but it can become a serious point of friction among families, leading to violence, and it has been linked to atherosclerosis, hardened arteries. It’s also a warning sign of sleep apnea, which is very serious indeed.
Sleep Apnea and Sleep Dentistry
Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition that is very treatable, but, unfortunately, most sufferers don’t know they have it. Sleep apnea is normally caused by an airway that completely closes at night, cutting off your air supply. In response, your brain partly awakens to restore air flow. This both disturbs your sleep and stresses your heart.
Sleep apnea is associated with so many health conditions it’s not easy to list them all, but among the most serious are high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, diabetes, cancer, mood disorders, and dementia. People with sleep apnea are also more likely to be involved in serious car accidents or workplace accidents. Overall, sleep apnea can increase your medical expenses threefold, and your risk of dying in the near future by as much as sixfold.
If you are suffering sleep problems and want to learn how a dentist can help, please call the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness at (248) 480-0085 today.