How Orthodontics Can Help TMD

A good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy life! Healthy sleep habits are essential for optimal brain and body functioning and reduce the risk of certain diseases. The average amount of sleep needed will vary from person to person, but most adults require around 7-9 hours a night to feel their best. Unfortunately, many conditions can cause sleep disruptions, including temporomandibular disorders, commonly known as TMD. We’re looking at how orthodontics can help TMD.

Here at Kovacs Orthodontics, we provide customized TMD treatment solutions in our Billings and Miles City offices. These treatments address and relieve the symptoms associated with TMD, helping you get deeper, more restorative sleep. 

If you’ve been struggling with tiredness, irritability, and grogginess upon waking, TMD could be the culprit! Let’s take a closer look at these disorders and how Dr. Kovacs can treat them. Keep reading to learn more!

What’s TMD? Is it the same thing as TMJ?

Many people, including professionals, use these abbreviations interchangeably, but they’re not the same. TMJ is short for the temporomandibular joint, the hinge points that connect our jawbones to our head. This mobile joint is located directly in front of the ears, rotating, gliding, and acting as a powerful hinge. This impressive mobility lets us speak, yawn, and chew our food properly. 

The TMJ is surrounded by several complex protectors like tendons, muscles, and joint pads. These components work together most of the time, but if anything throws them off course, it can cause various symptoms. That’s where TMD comes in! Temporomandibular disorders are a group of conditions that involve issues with your TMJ and the facial muscles that control its movement. 

TMD symptoms can flare up in interconnected parts, including your jaw, ears, nose, face, neck, shoulders, and upper back. These often include:

  • pain or tenderness in the jaw, face, or neck
  • persistent headaches
  • backaches
  • clicking, popping or grating sounds in your jaw
  • decreased jaw mobility and trouble opening your mouth fully
  • jaws that get locked in an open or closed position

If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Kovacs to get a proper diagnosis and discuss the available treatment options.

How Orthodontics Can Help TMD

How TMD can affect your sleep

Many patients with TMD experience discomfort when they sleep. Recent studies have shown a link between TMD and sleep apnea, which occurs when the airway becomes obstructed as a person sleeps. When oxygen is cut off, the brain alerts the heart to keep beating, causing the person to gasp or choke for breath. This process can repeat hundreds of times per night, interrupting sleep. While it’s uncommon to fully awaken during an apnea episode, the disruption is often just enough to throw off your sleep cycle. 

Sleep apnea can result from a misaligned jaw joint causing the tongue to block the airway at night. In cases like this, treating TMD can also treat sleep apnea! Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is another common TMD symptom that can disrupt your sleep. Bruxism happens when your jaw muscles clench, exerting pressure on the teeth, jaw, and joints. Teeth grinding can exacerbate joint and teeth damage and may even wake you from a sound sleep. 

Certain sleeping positions can worsen TMD symptoms. For example, sleeping on your side without proper head and neck support can put pressure on the jaw joint, causing headaches and pain upon waking. If you sleep with your arms above your head, it can increase strain in the shoulder area. Many TMD patients find that sleeping on their back is the best position, as it reduces tension by keeping the spine in a neutral position.  

What are the treatment options for TMD?

Fortunately, many people with TMD will experience minor symptoms that resolve on their own within a few weeks or months. During this time, you can ease your symptoms by:

  • eating softer foods
  • applying ice or moist heat to the affected area
  • avoiding extreme jaw movements like wide yawning
  • taking smaller bites of food
  • alternating chewing on each side of your mouth
  • exploring gentle stress-relief techniques

TMD can occur due to injury, arthritis, or an imbalance in the nerves, ligaments, and muscles. It’s important to receive a proper diagnosis before deciding on a course of action, which is why Dr. Kovacs will conduct a thorough TMJ examination if you’re showing any symptoms. 

Once Dr. Kovacs finds the cause and diagnoses your TMD, we’ll develop a personalized treatment plan to help alleviate your discomfort. We take a conservative multidisciplinary approach and aim to use less invasive treatments.

We offer non-invasive treatments that won’t cause any permanent changes to the structure or position of the jaw or teeth. Even patients with more persistent TMD symptoms won’t need aggressive treatment most of the time! 

Options for TMD may include oral appliances like custom-made mouthguards combined with physical therapy, trigger point injections, or injections with botulinum toxin. If you need your bite corrected to minimize or eliminate TMD symptoms, Dr. Kovacs may recommend orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign clear aligners. We’ll discuss all of your treatment options during your first consultation.

How Orthodontics Can Help TMD

Treat TMD and get a good night’s sleep with Kovacs Orthodontics

If TMD symptoms affect your daily life and interrupt your sleep, our expert team is here for you! We can get to the root of your TMD issues and help you reclaim your life. Get in touch today to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Kovacs in our Billings or Miles City offices to find out more!