TMJ / Sleep Appliances

What is TMD / TMJ?

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ or TMD, is a condition that makes talking and chewing painful. It can be related to frequent headaches, jaw aches, and/or chronic facial pain. This disorder is associated with the jaw joint (or the temporomandibular joint) and the muscles to move the joint.
Oftentimes the cause of TMJ is a condition called bruxism, which is chronic clenching/grinding. There are many proposed reasons why patients clench and grind, but it is clear that whatever the cause, the destruction caused to the teeth, gums, and bone in a person is very substantial.

What can be done to help?

At our office, we can fabricate a guard or splint to help protect teeth from the damage caused by clenching and grinding. These guards can help with TMJ-pain as well. Guards are BPA-free, are custom-made in a laboratory, and are generally more comfortable than a device purchased over-the-counter. These guards can be either an upper or lower appliance, and can be made in different thicknesses depending on the patients’ specific needs.

At our office, Dr. Pearson and Dr. Tom Tardif have developed a special program called the PRI Oral Orthotic Program, using these occlusal guards to help balance the bite and body. This program, which involves the use of oral orthotic(s) along with PRI exercise therapy, has been shown to greatly help patients with TMJ disorder, including those who have struggled with discomfort for over 10 years. Additionally, this PRI Oral Orthotic Program allows for management of posture, jaw pain, neck pain, back pain, anxiety, poor sleep, and many other issues related to airway and postural dysfunction. Working together to resolve problems is a necessary step to ensure the whole body is addressed, and to resolve root causes rather than just symptoms.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep is an essential part of our life. It affects how we function, perform, feel and / or look. Most people need 8 hours of quality sleep to repair and heal their bodies daily.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder characterized by pauses, or shallow and infrequent breathing during sleep, which then leads to reduced oxygen supply to the body. Snoring is a mild form of sleep apnea that is instigated when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes while you sleep, causing interruptions in breathing. These interruptions usually last between 10 to 20 seconds each and can occur up to hundreds of times a night.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Loud, chronic snoring and long pauses in breath
  • Choking or gasping while sleeping
  • Feeling tired and sleepy throughout the day
  • Waking up with a headache, dry mouth, or sore throat
  • Insomnia or constantly waking during the night
  • Forgetfulness, irritability, or depression

Problems that can develop from untreated sleep apnea:

  • Chronic tiredness from sleep deprivation
  • Slower reflexes, poor concentration
  • High blood pressure and weight gain
  • Health issues such as diabetes and heart disease
What can be done to help?

Oral Appliances resemble a night guard or retainer. These maintain an open, unobstructed airway by preventing the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat. Using these devices, the lower jaw is held in a forward position so it does not fall open and cause the airway to collapse. It is recommended to first have a sleep study conducted, in order to determine if the patient has mild, moderate, or severe sleep apnea. Appliance Therapy is for treating mild to moderate airway obstruction and is a great alternative for those who have a hard time using a CPAP machine. These custom-made oral appliances are proven to be more effective than over-the-counter devices, which are not recommended as a therapeutic option.

EMA sleep appliance

SomnoDent Herbst Advance

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