TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint. It’s a small, flexible bit of connective tissue that attaches the jaw to the skull. You have one on each side of your face. Between eating, speaking, and everything else you need your mouth for, these little joints do a whole lot of work.
Because of the location, the number of directions the joint can flex, and the number of things it’s used for, TMJs are extremely susceptible to stress and injury. These are known as temporomandibular disorders, or TMDs.
TMDs can result in anything from chewing trouble and muscle sensitivity to jaw popping, locked joints, and headaches.
Here is a brief list of some of the most common causes of TMDs.
Jaw misalignment—For a number of different reasons, the jaw can become misaligned. When this happens, the movement of the joint rubs and stresses in places it shouldn’t, resulting in some of the above-mentioned pain and jaw difficulty.
Bruxism—Bruxism is the name used to describe chronic teeth grinding and jaw clenching. This can happen completely unconsciously at night, or as a result of severe stress during the day. It can cause major strain to the TMJ, as well as wearing down the teeth.
Physical injury—The TMJ is right on the side of the face. Any kind of blunt trauma due to such things as car accidents or sporting events can easily injure this area.
Stress—Stress often knots up our muscles. We’re very aware of it in our shoulders and backs, but not so often in our jaw. The TMJ, however, is just as susceptible to this kind of stress as any other part of the body.
Here at Perkins Dental, we use two main forms of treatment for TMDs.
Botox helps TMDs in the same way it helps relax wrinkles and relieve migraine pain. It is specifically designed to inhibit the neurotransmitters sent from the brain to the TMJ. Without the brain telling it to tense up, it won’t be able to contract, thus giving it a chance to relax and heal without interruption.
Mouthguards also help in the healing process. If the pain comes from jaw misalignment, mouthguards can help keep the jaw in place while sleeping. If the problem is stress or bruxism, they actively prevent the teeth from grinding and the jaw from clenching too hard. This pressure relief allows the joint to rest.
Millions of people suffer from sleep apnea. Most commonly seen is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Unfortunately, many of those who have it don’t know what OSA is, or what they can do about it. Perkins Dental wants that to change.
Simply put, apnea is a sleep disorder that can result in some severe health effects if left untreated. In order to understand why OSA is so important to treat, it’s necessary to take a look at how it works.
What it Does
Those with sleep apnea literally stop breathing at night. When this happens, the brain sends a panic signal which wakes up the sleeper. It barely lasts for a moment, and the affected person nearly always falls instantly back to sleep with no memory of having been awake at all.
The brief moment of consciousness acts as a hard-reset, allowing breathing to resume normally. Unfortunately, it also interrupts the sleep cycle as many as hundreds of times in a single night.
These people are given the illusion of a full night’s rest without the rejuvenating benefits. They can end up chronically exhausted, with no idea why and no way to fix it.
Why it Happens
By far, the most common form of apnea is OSA. It’s called such because the airways near the back of the throat are literally being obstructed.
While awake, vertical posture and conscious muscle tension keep these airways open and flowing as they should be. But at night, everything relaxes. A horizontal position, plus gravity, plus extreme relaxation is the perfect recipe for collapsed airways.
The diaphragm tries its best to pull enough air into the lungs, but it’s like trying to get water out of a pinched garden hose. There’s just not enough room or pressure. Eventually the brain has no choice but to wake you up and try again.
How to Treat It
These are the two most common methods that have been time-tested and proven to help OSA.
CPAP Machines: CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. These machines do exactly what the name implies: they pump a continuous stream of pressurized air into your breathing passages. This keeps them open and provides excellent oxygen levels to your blood stream.
Oral Appliances: These are a quieter, less invasive alternative to a CPAP. Appliances are essentially custom-designed mouth guards. They hold your jaw and tongue forward while you sleep. This simple adjustment in jaw position keeps the airway from collapsing in the first place, therefore allowing you to breathe with no obstruction.
Please Call Today
Difficult breathing results in oxygen deprivation. Exhaustion from interrupted sleep decimates your body’s ability to defend against disease. Both of these together have been linked to hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke, if left untreated.
If you or someone you know suffers from chronic exhaustion or severe snoring, they may have sleep apnea. Please give us a call today. Don’t put off the good night’s rest you deserve.