Do MADs Lead to TMJ?
If a position that holds your airway open might be uncomfortable for your jaw, does that mean that sleep apnea appliances can cause TMJ? Yes, they can.
If you look at the documentation for your MAD, you will find that TMJ (or TMD) is listed in the section on possible side effects.
The likelihood of developing TMJ after oral appliance therapy seems to be small. In a study comparing people using oral appliance therapy with those using CPAP for sleep apnea treatment, the oral appliance was more than twice as likely to cause jaw pain as CPAP. However, the study showed that TMJ pain was a short-term side effect and not a reason to recommend against oral appliance therapy.
In fact, some studies suggest that CPAP and oral appliances are essentially comparable when it comes to TMJ-related pain. Successfully deployed oral appliances are unlikely to lead to long-term bite problems.
However, poorly utilized oral appliances do have the potential to cause jaw pain and lead to long-term bite problems. The biggest danger here is over-the-counter (OTC) “snoring” appliances that people might buy and try to use at home. Sleep apnea is underdiagnosed, and many people with the condition might think that they are just a snorer. Their sleeping partner might report the loud noise, and they think that’s the problem. Self-treatment of snoring might stop snoring, but in the process, it might leave sleep apnea untreated, and it might cause TMJ.
Instead, it’s best to talk to a Denver sleep dentist before attempting to use any oral appliance for snoring or sleep apnea. At least you want to get a sleep test to see if you have sleep apnea. Then, make sure your sleep dentist understands potential side effects to reduce the risk of TMJ and other potential complications.