Even though it just sort of hangs there while we’re not paying attention, our jaw is an incredibly important tool for our bodies. It allows us to, among other things, chew our food, smile, yawn, share ideas, kiss, and when it malfunctions it can cause a series of painful complications.

TMD (sometimes TMJ) or temporomandibular joint disorder is estimated to affect more than 10 million Americans a year. The temporomandibular joint, which connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone on either side of the head, functions as a hinge for your mouth. To work properly, it connects to several other muscles groups in the surrounding area.

Although many might be familiar with the common symptoms of TMD such as jaw pain or a clicking sound when opening or closing your mouth, because of the interconnected nature of the joint, any malfunction can cause other complications, several of which may affect your sleep.

TMJ Might Be Zapping Your Sleep

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding or bruxism often goes hand-in-hand with TMJ. While there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that bruxism causes TMJ, it certainly puts added stress on the joint, which can worsen other TMJ symptoms. During sleep, those with extreme bruxism can clench their jaw with a force of up to 700 pounds per square inch. With this amount of pressure, you could significantly damage your teeth, dental fillings, or crowns. More so, those with bruxism report lower quality sleep due to pain or muscle weakness caused by tooth grinding.

Migraines or Tension Headaches

The most common TMJ-related headaches are caused by overworked muscle groups connected to the temporomandibular joint. When stretched too far, these muscle can become constricted, causing a mild to severe headache known as a tension headache.

Although the connection between migraines and TMJ are not clear, there is evidence that suggests that migraines could be caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerve, which can be affected by the temporomandibular joint. Frequent migraines or tension headaches can have a significant effect on our sleep, making it more difficult to fall asleep or waking us in the middle of the night.

Take Back Your Night

If you wake up frequently with jaw pain or sore teeth, you may suffer from TMD. In this case, scheduling a dentist appointment as soon as possible is important. TMJ is a progressive disorder that can cause serious complications such as jaw displacement over time. Decreases in sleep can also lower concentration, and even increase your risk of heart attack or stroke or even weight gain.

If you would like to learn more about how a neuromuscular dentist can help with TMJ, please call (910) 392-6060 today for an appointment with Wilmington, NC sleep dentist Dr. Michael J. Kuzma at Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.