A Connection Between TMJ Pain and Sleep Apnea?

sleep apnea photo
Photo by Rachel Tayse

If you’re like thousands of other Americans, you suffer from temporomandibular–that is, jaw hinge–pain. TMJ pain, as it’s better known, is one of the most common complaints we dentists hear. But did you know that TMJ pain could be related to sleep apnea?

It’s not a surprise that obstructive apnea can cause you to lose sleep. Sleep apnea causes a number of issues that range from increased risk of heart conditions to a simple–but profound–lack of rest. Needless to say, sleep apnea can put a lot of stress on those that suffer from it!

Sleep apnea may be a source of TMJ pain

One of the reasons researchers believe sleep apnea may be connected with TMJ pain is the fact that, when suffering from sleep apnea, your system is put under a lot of stress. According to some sources, there is a correlation between this stress and TMJ-causing bruxism, especially when connected with a lack of deep sleep.

For those of us who already suffer from TMJ-pain causing bruxism–or, a consistent, unconscious grinding of teeth–we know all too well how much pressure we exert over our jaws over the course of the day. Some numbers have the amount of pressure at around 200 pounds per square inch– enough to cause serious damage to our teeth and temporomandibular joint. When we take a look at the amount of pressure those who suffer from sleep apnea regularly exert, it can reach upwards of 700 pounds!

The connection is clear: TMJ pain can come from sleep apnea

The reason for this increase in jaw pressure is clear. While most people are able to enter a restful state during sleep, those who suffer from sleep apnea are not. Kept suspended in a state of discomfort, the mounting stress and pressure causes us to clench our jaws in reflex. For some of us, this means an extreme amount of pressure on our teeth and temporomandibular joint. In turn, this leads to an extreme build-up of TMJ pain as the joint is worn down.

So what should we do about this source of pain?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say. As with many other conditions, TMJ pain and sleep apnea are frequently caused by (and the cause for) a number of different issues. Everyone who suffers from these conditions does so for a range of unique reasons. Treating them–and treating them correctly–means addressing the issue head-on, and identifying the underlying causes correctly.

There is no catch-all solution to sleep apnea. However, it has been observed that–once the sleep apnea is corrected–some patients have had a significant improvement in their TMJ pain. If you suffer from TMJ pain and sleep apnea, one may be connected to the other. Take a look at what Dr. Matthews can do to treat your conditions. If you’re looking for an Austin, Texas dentist, don’t be shy– look us up!

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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