Sleep Apnea and TMJ

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea, or in simple terms snoring, is a serious and life-threatening sleep disorder affecting a large percentage of the population. This disorder has been labeled the silent killer.

Sleep apnea is defined by continuous involuntary breathing interruptions during sleep. These interruptions – or apneic events, as they’re called – can last anywhere from a short second to a couple of minutes, occurring up to 30 times within a single hour.

Apneic events pose a threat to the body because they lower oxygen levels in the bloodstream while simultaneously boosting its carbon dioxide, or CO2, levels. This imbalance then triggers the brain to quickly open up the airway, causing loud snores and partial awakening.

As a result, this constant stimulation to both the brain and upper airway muscles prevents the body from getting the deep sleep it requires night after night.

Because sleep apnea doesn’t always fully awaken sufferers at night, patients may go years without the diagnosis and proper treatment they need, all the while experiencing chronic daytime headaches and drowsiness.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is either central or obstructive (OSA). Central sleep apnea is when the brain cannot properly signal the airway muscles to begin breathing.

Obstructive sleep apnea, on the other hand, means air is incapable of flowing through the nose and/or mouth while the body tries to catch its breath. This is the most common form of sleep apnea and the easiest to treat by a TMJ expert. Typical symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include early morning headaches, daytime sleepiness and insomnia. People with OSA typically lack energy and feel tired throughout the day.

When the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses into the airway during sleep, the tongue then blocks the back of the throat, preventing oxygen from entering the lungs. Because sleep apnea also lowers blood oxygen levels, this causes the heart to work harder to make up for the lack of oxygen. This repeated stress on the muscle can cause heart-related diseases.

Medical attention is imperative if you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from sleep apnea, as it can be deadly if left untreated.

Dangers of Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Daytime sleepiness – Depression – Diabetes – Fatigue – Heart attack – High blood pressure

Impotence – Intellectual decline – Memory loss – Stroke – TMJ and Sleep Apnea

TMJ involves a misalignment of the jaw joints. This can alter the resting position of the tongue, which can block the airways as you sleep. This can potentially lead to obstructive sleep apnea, as the lower jaw is directly attached to the tongue.

With TMJ, the tongue adapts to sit farther back than its natural position, acting as a pillow to cushion the jaw and relieve muscle tension. This continues into sleep, preventing air from getting into the lungs, much like when the back of the throat softens up and collapses in non-TMJ related sleep apnea.

Preventing Sleep Apnea in Children

Children experience rapid spurts of growth that impact their bone structure and oral health. There are a few common habits that may lead a child to later develop this life-threatening condition.

Thumb-sucking can affect proper jaw development during growth stages, also compromising the airway, misaligning their arches and pushing the front teeth forward.

If a child is suffering from crowded teeth, this can force the tongue against the teeth and narrow the dental arch, blocking the airways and leaving little room for the tongue to properly rest.

Childhood Allergies and Sleep Apnea

Allergies and sinus congestion can also hamper a child’s breathing, causing the tongue to once again drop down to make room for air to flow down into the lungs.

This misalignment destabilizes the lips and cheeks, which rely on the tongue as a center of gravity. This can dramatically affect upper jaw development and cause a constricted arch and compromise breathing.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Addressing sleep apnea starts with testing to diagnose and guide treatment, if necessary. Abandoning habits like smoking and alcohol consumption is generally recommended, too.

Traditionally, sleeping masks were the default way to ease the opening up of airways during sleep. Today, however, there are oral devices specially designed to bring the lower jaw forward to prevent the tongue from blocking the flow of air to the lungs. These are a much more comfortable and convenient option for those who want to avoid surgery or cannot sleep with the masks on.

There is a Solution

A custom-made, comfortable oral device can be very effective in treating sleep apnea in patients that qualify for the device through a simple sleep test. This oral device can eliminate the use of a noisy, unpleasant and non-hygienic C-PAP machine.

Dr. Eddie Siman, sleep disorder dentist in Los Angeles and Sherman Oaks, can offer you relief with a lower jaw device that is custom-designed to fit your mouth and jaw shape.

The appliance works by keeping your air passages open, thereby regulating the heart’s oxygen content while also reducing snoring. It is discreet and comfortable to wear, allowing you to eat, drink and speak while you wear it. It also ensures you can get a good night’s sleep, unburdened by the interruptions and stress caused by sleep apnea.

Get the Help You Need for Your Sleep Apnea

Nighttime is for rest and renewal, not for suffering. Sleep apnea can threaten not just your sleep but your overall health, causing irreparable damage to your nervous system if left untreated.

Don’t wait any longer to find out if you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep disorder dentist and TMJ expert Dr. Siman can help you find a personalized solution for your condition.

With over 30 years of experience in the field, he has helped countless clients resolve their sleep issues. Dr. Siman’s personalized attention to his clients and expertise in holistically treating sleep apnea and other TMJ-related disorders has made him one of the most sought after professionals in this field.