Connections between the oral environment, sleep, and TMJ

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Terecita Dean's Blog | 0 comments

Connections between the oral environment, sleep, and TMJ
Because the mouth and jaw are part of the head and neck area, dysfunction in the oral environment can often contribute to TMJ and sleep disorders. TMJ disorders can cause a great a deal of pain, and sleep disorders can pose a serious health threat. TMJ and sleep disorders are very often connected, and I specialize in treating both of them with whole-body, nonsurgical methods, including cranial osteopathy and the use of oral appliances, to allow patients to lead pain-free, healthier lives.

Here are a few ways that TMJ disorders affect sleep: The body’s myofascial system affects the back, jaw and TMJ through fascia stretching from the cranium the sacrum. Myofascial dysfunction results in restrictions in the head, neck and facial areas, which can lead to TMJ symptoms such as trouble opening and closing the mouth. It can also lead to a tight diaphragm, resulting in diminished oxygenation of the brain and consequent sleep fragmentation. As noted, disturbed sleep can wreak havoc with our circadian cycle, leading to hormone dysregulation, which can further disturb sleep, and weaken all our physiological cycles.

As mentioned, however, sleep disturbances more often cause TMJ rather than the reverse. This is due to the global effects of sleep disturbance on whole-body health, including the functioning of the TMJ. Fragmented sleep can lead to myofascial and postural issues as well as hormonal issues. It can also result in lessened ability to regulate cytokines (substances involved in the immune system, some of which are released in sleep), and this in turn can lead to inflammation.

Sleep is important for tissue repair and growth and restoring energy to the blood that supplies our muscles and myofascial system. If the myofascial system is not refreshed, problems can arise with the fascia, particularly the pharyngeal basilar fascial chain and the deep cervical chain, which affect the alignment of the spine. Muscle tension thus affects posture, creating poor spinal alignment which in turn affects vascular pressure in the brain, leading to a variety of ill effects. Any disturbance in blood flow, as with high blood pressure resulting from sleep apnea, affects the heart-brain connection and brain function. There can also be muscle tension between the stomach and esophagus that can interfere with the autonomic functioning of the esophageal sphincter and precipitate gastro-esophageal reflux (heartburn). In addition, a narrowing of the pharyngeal airway due to muscle tension can exacerbate a heart problem.

In relation to the TMJ, poor sleep that results in myofascial tension and postural problems can lead to many head and neck problems. Postural problems can also affect the tongue, leading to bruxism (teeth grinding) and dental malocclusions (failure of the teeth to meet properly). All of these conditions can in turn lead to TMJ disorders.

Request a consultation if you require dental services, are experiencing jaw pain or have persistent sleep problems or other symptoms of sleep apnea.