There is nothing quite like a good night’s sleep to improve your attitude and your outlook on the world. But what happens when you wake up in the morning still feeling exhausted? Few things are as important to your overall health as getting adequate rest each night, which is why anything interfering with your quality of sleep should not be ignored. Though there are a number of potential causes for chronic fatigue, did you know that bruxism is at the top of the list? Since most nighttime teeth grinders do so without even knowing it, bruxism can go undiagnosed for months, or even years, causing you to lose valuable sleep, and to develop what is commonly called TMJ, a disorder that can affect your ability to chew, speak and even sleep, comfortably. If you keep waking up only to find yourself tired, perhaps even with a stiff jaw or headaches, it’s time to see Dr. James Fondriest.
What is TMD?
TMD is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joints, which connect the jaw to the skull. TMD often begins during a period of stress, and can create negative side effects that make it painful for sufferers to chew, speak, or even open their mouths.
Know the Signs of TMJ Disorders
A number of warning signs are often present in the case of TMJ. Some of the most common are headaches and jaw pain, both in general but particularly while eating or yawning. Other symptoms include:
- Ringing in the ears or ear pain
- Sensitivity to cold foods or drinks
- Worn teeth
- Uncomfortable or changing bite
- Difficulty chewing
- Clicking or popping noises in the jaw joints
- Gum recession
- Neck pain
Why TMJ Issues Can Leave You Exhausted
Patients with TMD often, though not always, regularly grind or clench their teeth. Bruxism can have serious, negative consequences for both your TMJ and teeth. While night-time, unconscious grinding is often to blame, some patients experience bruxism during their waking hours, as well. (However, it is important to note that during unconscious, night-time grinding, grinders can exert up to five times more force! When asleep, the mind does not prevent the body from exerting such powerful and damaging force.)
When you grind or clench your teeth, the muscles in the jaw and face tense up to exert pressure between the teeth. This also puts unnecessary force on the TMJ, and can lead to pain during the day or a loss of sleep at night.
The muscles involved in the grinding or clenching motion become sore, tight, and tense, leading to tension-style headaches, neck and shoulder pain.
The Impact of Sleep Loss
Night-time grinding can leave your body tired and in pain after waking. Night-time grinding and clenching decreases the quality of sleep your body receives, and can actually cause you to be less well-rested. Some patients find that their night-time grinding even wakes them up throughout the night, as their body experiences pain and tension, or the sound of their teeth grinding wakes them or their partner.
Sleep deprivation is a serious medical issue that can have a huge impact on a person’s mental and physical health. Research has shown that adults need an ideal 7-9 hours of sleep every night; however, when sleep is interrupted by bruxism, patients can receive less restful sleep, or less sleep in general. Patients with significant lack of sleep:
- Are more likely to develop Type II diabetes
- Experience greater risks for depression and forgetfulness
- Are at risk for dementia, up to 33% more than sound sleepers
- Contribute to the annual 6,000 fatal car accidents that occur from tired driving
- Release more hunger-inducing hormones (ghrelin) and less appetite-control hormones (leptin), putting them at an increased risk for weight gain or obesity
- Are three times more likely to develop a cold due to a weakened immune system
How Treatment Helps
Many patients find they can stop the grinding by being fitted, by their dentist, with a custom appliance to be worn as they sleep. These appliances, whether a mouthguard or what is known as an NTI device, can help the jaw sit more comfortably, and protect teeth from grinding so that a patient can get a better night’s sleep.
A mouthguard fits over your entire row of top or bottom teeth and is made of hard acrylic. Mouthguards simply protect the teeth from the force of grinding – they do not reduce bruxism habits. An NTI device, however, can help to improve your body’s tendency to clench or grind at night. This acrylic appliance covers only a partial area of the teeth and prevents the top and bottom teeth from touching during sleep. An NTI device can effectively reduce enamel wear and joint strain or muscle tension in the jaw.
If other issues are to blame for the TMJ, such as poor alignment or missing teeth, your dentist may recommend more extensive restorative treatment to help correct the alignment issues. In doing so, the treatment should help alleviate the discomfort and side effects associated with TMJ.
Although rare, your dentist may recommend surgical procedures to treat advanced TMJ disorders. These are usually a last resort because they are much more invasive and the results are permanent.
Contact Lake Forest Dental Arts
Dr. Fondriest has had extensive training in TMJ therapy at the world-renowned L. D. Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, Florida, where he now works as a senior faculty member. The Pankey Institute specializes in the study of occlusion (bite) and treatment of TMJ disorders, and is considered by many to be the world’s leader in research and treatment of TMJ disorders.
If you are suffering from a lack of sleep or are experiencing restless, painful nights and mornings due to TMJ disorders, contact our Lake Forest practice. You do not have to suffer with the painful symptoms of TMD. Dr. Fondriest can help to alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Do not wait; contact our practice to schedule your TMJ consultation.