Sleep dentists are trained to help treat sleep apnea with the use of oral appliances. There are many dentists who will advertise their services as sleep dentists after just a short, focused training on oral appliances. However, if you are looking for a sleep dentist who is likely to give you the best results from your treatment, you should choose a sleep dentist who has more broad-based training, including expertise in the treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders, called either TMJ or TMD.
Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry is also a certified orofacial pain specialist, capable of treating both conditions. Here’s why your sleep dentist should also be a TMJ dentist like Dr. Berry.
TMJ and Sleep Apnea Are Linked
One of the most important things to understand is that there is a very complex interlinking of the two conditions of sleep apnea and TMJ. First, the two conditions are linked developmentally. Many people experience sleep apnea because of the size, shape, or position of their jaw. The size and shape of your jaw help determine the size and shape of your airway. Plus, the position of your jaw, which is the main bony support for your throat, can influence the likelihood that your airway will fall closed when you sleep.
All of these also influence a person’s likelihood of developing TMJ. Small jaws, malocclusion, and a jaw that’s in an unhealthy position can lead to TMJ. Because of these overlapping causes, perhaps 50% of people with mild to moderate sleep apnea have TMJ.
Sleep apnea continues to contribute to the development of TMJ as we get older. When our body senses an oxygen shortage, one of the things it does is clench the jaw to try to get better support for the airway. This can damage the teeth and jaw, contributing to the development of TMJ.
You want a sleep dentist who can recognize the symptoms of TMJ and know how to properly diagnose the condition, or else you might not get relief from some of your symptoms. A Denver TMJ dentist has not only the skill and experience to recognize TMJ but also the diagnostic equipment, like a CT scan, that lets them look for TMJ scientifically.
It’s important to get a clear diagnosis. People with TMJ may also have chronic fatigue syndrome, which can sometimes be misdiagnosed as sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Appliances Can Affect Your Jaw
It’s also important to know that sleep apnea treatment with an oral appliance can impact your jaw health. If your appliance isn’t properly fitted, it can put stress on your jaw joint and muscles. For people with TMJ, this can worsen the condition. And people without TMJ can develop the condition if they have a poorly fitted oral appliance.
Your sleep dentist needs to recognize these risks and know how to fit your oral appliance, so it fosters a healthy jaw position. You can’t treat both TMJ and sleep apnea with the same appliance. When properly utilized, though, oral appliance therapy only causes short-term jaw discomfort. On the other hand, a poorly fitted oral appliance, including an over-the-counter (OTC) appliance used without the direction of a Denver sleep dentist, can lead to significant jaw problems.
It’s also important to understand that it’s not just oral appliances that can impact your jaw. CPAP masks can also reshape your jaw, potentially leading to TMJ symptoms. Some studies suggest that the TMJ risk of oral appliances and CPAP are comparable.
TMJ Can Impact Your Appliance
Of course, TMJ can also have a significant impact on your oral appliance. Many people with TMJ are constantly flexing their jaw muscles. This can lead to clenching and grinding of teeth, which can damage an oral appliance. If your sleep dentist can’t recognize this risk, they may not choose an appliance that’s sturdy enough. That could cost you money and the time required to get a new appliance made frequently. In addition, you may have to be without an oral appliance while your new one is being manufactured. This can increase your sleep apnea-related risks.
But a Denver TMJ dentist can prevent this by first putting your jaw in the position where it’s least likely to clench and cause problems, but also by recommending a sturdy sleep appliance that can stand up to the punishment.
Are You Looking for a Sleep and TMJ Dentist in Denver?
If you’re in the Denver area and looking for a sleep dentist who is also trained to ensure you have a healthy bite, please call (303) 691-0267 today for an appointment at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado, located in central Denver near the intersection of I-25 and Colorado Boulevard. We have experience helping people with sleep apnea, TMJ, and both conditions. Let us help you.