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Airways

Are TMJ airways issues impacting your sleep?

Airway Issue DiagramWe know a good night’s sleep is an important part of a healthy, productive life, yet so many of us don’t get one. There are dozens of reasons why people don’t sleep well, and, often, the causes of poor sleep can be frustratingly difficult to determine. If you regularly wake up with a headache, feeling dizzy or simply wondering if you even slept at all, or if you have heard complaints about your snoring, a TMJ disorder could be at the root of your sleep problem.

TMJ problems and sleep disorders have a relationship. One can cause the other, and vice versa. That’s because, when your jaw is misaligned, it can lead to a blocked airway, especially when you sleep. The exact opposite is also true. If you have breathing difficulties such as a constricted or an obstructed airway, it can impact how you breath and, in children, affect the way the jaw forms, leading to bite issues in adulthood.


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The connection between your tongue and TMJ

Tongue DiagramYour tongue is one of the strongest and most flexible muscles in your body. It does way more than just taste. You also also use it to chew, talk, swallow, sing and kiss. A lesser known role of your tongue is as your jaw’s cushion. Kind of like its pillow. In a normal mouth, the tongue lies just behind the upper teeth to support your jaw and your upper dental arch.

How does TMJ affect your tongue?

If you have a misaligned bite due to TMJ, it can affect how your tongue is positioned in your mouth. If you have a narrow mouth or an over-bite, your tongue can be forced too far back in your mouth, stopping it from doing its job properly, and getting in the way of your breathing.

Childhood breathing issues can result in TMJ

When a child can’t breathe through their nose, usually because of allergies, they are forced to breathe through their mouth. Mouth breathing causes the child’s tongue to drop away from the roof of the mouth to allow air to pass into the lungs. With the tongue in this position, it no longer supports the child’s dental arch.

As the child grows, this dental arch support is critical. Without it, the jaw may not develop as it should leading to a constricted dental arch, and TJM issues later in life.

TMJ treatment options can help you get back to sleep

By taking a neuromuscular approach, one that considers the big picture of how your teeth, tongue and jaws work together, dentistry can help overcome TMJ related breathing issues. How?

  • Orthodontics can help reposition your teeth and widen your dental arch
  • If missing or damaged teeth are causing your bite to be misaligned, dental restorations such as veneers, or implants can help rebalance it
  • Sometimes all it takes is a simple orthotic worn at night to resolve nighttime breathing problems


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Is TMJ causing your airway issues?

TMJ can be a complex disorder, both to understand and diagnose. When it comes to airways, things get more complex because it can become a chicken and egg dilemma – which came first the breathing problem or the jaw problem?

The good news is that, once diagnosed, breathing related jaw issues can be addressed. If you would like to understand the complex relationship between sleep disorders and TMJ, please come in for a consultation.