Sleep Apnea / TMJ Disorders

What are Dental Appliances?

A dental appliance is an oral device that may be used for the management of conditions such as sleep apnea or TMJ disorders. Some dental appliances work by repositioning your mandible or jawbone, while others hold your tongue forward.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by periods of reduced or arrested breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea refers to the repeated episodes of upper respiratory tract blockage during sleep. During these episodes, breathing reduces or stops and then resumes with a snort, gasp or jerk. Sleep apnea can make you wake up feeling tired or unrefreshed. The flow of blood to vital organs may reduce and irregular heart rhythms can also occur.

What are TMJ Disorders?

A TMJ disorder is a general term that refers to the pain or discomfort in the temporo-mandibular joint area. It is a very painful condition which involves the jaw joint and the muscles surrounding it.

Temporo-mandibular joints are located in front of your ears where your lower jaw (mandible) meets the skull. The TMJ enables movement of your jaw when you eat your food, talk and sing.

How do Dental Appliances Work?

Your dentist creates plaster molds of your teeth by placing a quick-drying plastic material within a tray into your mouth. Based on the molds, firmer plaster molds of your gums and teeth are constructed that replicate your natural bite.

Your doctor will assess how far you can protrude your lower jaw forward. The more forward you are able to move your lower jaw, the better results you can expect with your dental appliance. However, if forward jaw movement is inadequate, this treatment may not be suitable for you.

That plaster mold will be used as the model for constructing your dental appliance which is made of hardened acrylic plastic. Your dental appliance works similar to a retainer. It fits over your teeth and maintains a modified bite.

If you feel any discomfort due to the appliance, your dentist may be able to make suitable adjustments. For example, the edges may need to be trimmed or smoothed.

Your dentist will show you how to wear the appliance properly. Common do’s and don’ts are given regarding care and use of the appliance.

How are Dental Appliances useful in TMJ Disorders and Sleep Apnea?

Using a dental appliance can help you in the following ways:

  • Reduces oral muscle activities
  • Alters the load on the temporomandibular joint by reducing the frequency, duration or intensity of oral movements
  • Minimizes headache intensity or frequency caused by sleep bruxism (grinding teeth while sleeping)
  • Prevents your braces or other teeth-supporting devices from the harmful effects of sleep bruxism
  • Improves internal malalignment caused due to strong muscle activity while sleeping

Dental appliances can help you sleep comfortably by minimizing snoring and incidences of sleep apnea and alleviating symptoms of TMJ disorders. You may have slight discomfort during the initial stages of use. For any unusual symptoms and discomfort visit your dentist to evaluate.