Monthly Archives: May 2016

Understanding TMJ: What You Need to Know

If you are experiencing sensitive or unusually worn teeth, a popping or clicking jaw, or unexplained pain such as headaches and earaches, you might be suffering from TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disease. This is a serious and often progressive disease which, over time, can cause permanent damage to your jaw joint and the supporting structures. Fortunately, with proper diagnosis and treatment, TMJ can be halted or even reversed.

understanding-tmj

What Causes TMJ?

The complex temporomandibular joint normally operates like a sliding hinge between the skull and the jawbone. Cartilage and discs cushion and protect the joint, allowing smooth and pain-free movement. In TMJ, however, this joint becomes misaligned.

TMJ sometimes appears after an impact to the jaw. Hormonal fluctuations may be responsible for some cases, as it is most frequently diagnosed in women between 20 and 40 years of age. For most of the 35 million sufferers in the United States, however, the root cause of TMJ remains a mystery.

Stress is often implicated as a cause, likely because those with anxiety are more likely to grind the teeth or clench the jaw. However, in most cases of TMJ, an actual structural misalignment of the teeth is found. If the teeth do not come together properly, chewing will pull the jaw out of alignment to create a more balanced bite. This puts intense pressure on the joint capsule and surrounding muscles, leading to the characteristic pops, clicks, and pain that are hallmarks of TMJ.

Symptoms of TMJ

Every case of TMJ is unique, and everyone’s subjective experience is different. Still, most people with TMJ experience at least a few of these common symptoms:

  • – Jaw pain or tenderness
  • – Earaches
  • – Headaches
  • – Facial pain
  • – Painful or difficult chewing
  • – Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when moving the jaw
  • – Joint lockup, making it difficult to fully open or close the mouth

 

TMJ Treatment Options

The goal for TMJ treatment is to relax the jaw by ensuring that the bite is in harmony with both itself and the joint. This allows you to use your mouth normally, eliminates pain, and stops the progression of the disease.

Because everyone is different, there is no single right way to accomplish this goal. Depending on your individual needs, your dentist might select one or more of the following treatments:

  • – Medication
  • – Bite splint or orthotic
  • – Physical therapy
  • – Equilibration and functional reconstruction

 

Other specialized treatments are also available. Your dentist will perform a thorough examination and go over the results with you in detail. The treatment process often takes several appointments to complete, and is individualized based on your symptoms, their severity, and the complexity of the underlying issues.

Home Remedies

In most cases, a TMJ treatment plan will include both in-office and home treatment procedures. In mild cases, home remedies may be all that is required. Your dentist will give you a specific home care plan based on the results of your examination, but here are a few common suggestions:

  • – Soft foods: While the goal of treatment is to return your jaw to full use, eating certain foods can worsen the pain during the healing process. Choose soft, easy to chew foods such as fish, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and well-cooked vegetables. Cut other foods into small bites, and skip hard or sticky foods for a while.
  • – Ice packs: Ice can help to ease pain. Ask your dentist to explain exactly when and for how long you apply each ice treatment.
  • – Intentional relaxation: Stress can lead to clenching and jaw tension, so build relaxation breaks into your day. Consciously hold your teeth slightly apart, placing your tongue between them if needed. Minimize large mouth movements such as yelling or singing.
  • – Avoid chewing gum or ice: The process of chewing can cause TMJ pain, so eliminate all unnecessary forms of chewing while you heal.
  • – Over the counter pain medications: Check with your dentist to make sure you do not have contraindications based on your current medications or health status. For most people, however, over the counter medications can bring temporary pain relief. If these do not work for you, ask your dentist to prescribe something a bit stronger.

 

TMJ is a complex and highly personalized disorder that generally gets worse over time. With proper diagnosis and treatment, however, it is possible to stop and even reverse the disease. Your dentist will draw up an individualized treatment plan based on your symptoms and the severity of your condition.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea: What You Should Know

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a chronic medical condition that affects an estimated 18 to 30 million adults in the United States. It causes sufferers to stop breathing for short periods during the night, increases the risks for many health conditions, and can even lead to sudden death.

One of the most common symptoms is snoring, yet snoring can also be caused by anything from allergies or a cold to the shape of your sinuses. How can you tell if you have sleep apnea, and what can you do about it if you do? Here is what you should know.

sleep apnea

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Besides snoring, sleep apnea has many signs. Each person is different, so you might experience all, some, or none of the following symptoms:

  • – Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • – Noticeable pauses in breathing during sleep
  • – Nighttime teeth grinding

 

In mild cases, these symptoms may be nearly undetectable, or easily chalked up to other things such as a poor night’s rest. In particularly bad cases, on the other hand, some people report that they wake during the night feeling unable to catch their breath, or like they are drowning. Some feel physically unable to stay awake during the day, even when they seem to have gotten plenty of sleep.

TMJ Indicators

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disease, is not always related to sleep apnea. However, if you have symptoms of TMJ, it may be worth investigating whether sleep apnea is the cause, particularly if you also have other signs of the condition. Here are some common symptoms of TMJ:

  • – Teeth grinding or clenching
  • – Worn or chipped teeth
  • – Worn away tooth enamel
  • – Increased dental sensitivity
  • – Muscle tightness in the jaw, neck, and shoulders
  • – Earaches
  • – Headaches
  • – Facial pain

 

Sleep Study

The only way to know for sure if you have sleep apnea is to undergo a sleep study. Traditionally, these have been held in medical facilities known as sleep labs. You will be asked to arrive in the evening, typically between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. You should bring your medications, comfortable sleeping attire, and your morning hygiene supplies.

After checking in and filling out forms, you will change clothes and be hooked up to a variety of wires. Electrodes are used to monitor your sleep stages throughout the night, as well as your facial and body movements. You will also wear an EKG monitor to track your heart rate and rhythm, an oxygen sensor on your finger, and a nasal monitor to track your breathing. Finally, you might have elastic bands placed around your chest and stomach to monitor breathing effort and a microphone at your throat to check for snoring.

You will sleep in a provided hospital bed until early morning, typically around 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. Then you will be awakened by a tech, who will disconnect the monitoring devices, ask you to sign a few more forms, and escort you to the lab’s facilities for showering and morning hygiene. Your results will be sent to your doctor or dentist, who will discuss them with you at a follow-up appointment.

Home Sleep Tests

Although most sleep labs go out of their way to make patients as comfortable as possible, sleep studies are not much fun. In some cases, you might be able to conduct a home sleep test instead. This allows you to conduct your nighttime monitoring in the comfort of your own home and bed.

If you qualify for a home sleep test, you will receive a small monitoring system about the size of a telephone handset. Just connect the various monitoring devices as instructed before you go to sleep, and leave them on throughout the night. Home sleep tests do not include the electrodes used in lab-based sleep studies.

You will be instructed to use the monitoring equipment for one to three nights, depending on your individual circumstances. Then you will simply return the device to the coordinating office, receive your results, and share them with your dentist for follow-up.

Sleep Apnea Treatments

Sleep apnea is traditionally treated with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which keeps your airway from collapsing during the night. Although these machines typically provide excellent results, many people struggle with breathing normally while using one. Others dislike the bulky equipment and elaborate setup, which can be especially difficult for frequent travelers.

There are other variations on the CPAP, but many people prefer a sleek and simple anti-snoring mouthpiece, also known as a sleep apnea mouth guard. Instead of a bulky machine, these mouthpieces are small and easy to carry. They look something like a football player’s mouth guard, and are designed to hold the mouth and jaw in alignment to prevent nighttime collapse.

Snoring and sleep apnea are complicated disorders, and should only be diagnosed and treated by a professional. If you show any signs or symptoms, please bring your condition to the dentist’s attention right away. With proper diagnosis and treatment, there is no reason to suffer any longer.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.