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TMJ & Sleep Apnea

Capati Dental places a strong focus on the diagnosis and treatment of Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). TMD is a condition that occurs when the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is misaligned or malfunctioning in some way that subjects it to excess pressure. TMJ Disorder can be caused by a variety of forces that overload the temporomandibular joints including misaligned teeth, missing teeth, poor previous dental work, incorrect swallowing habits, teeth grinding or clenching, and incorrect jaw growth causing a mismatch of the upper and lower jaws. Trauma such as a fall or car accident is also a cause, as well as degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis.

The temporomandibular joint is something each of us uses every day. It is the location where the lower jaw (mandible) joins the temporal bone of the skull just before the ear. With eating and swallowing throughout the day, it is one of the most frequently used joints in the body. Pain from TMJ is felt not only in the joint, but often in the ear, face and neck. Symptoms include jaw clicking or difficulty opening your mouth. TMJ dysfunction causes widespread and variable pains. It is described by The Journal of the American Medical Association as the “great impostor because it mimics many different diseases and has such a wide variety of symptoms”.


The most effective treatment for TMD is to use a dental splint to decompress the joints, decrease muscle tension, and limit the effects of clenching and grinding of teeth. Splints are custom made at Capati Dental to correctly align the bite and are adjusted regularly by your dentist as structural changes take place.

Botox®, a purified protein which is injected into muscles to make them relax, can be used to treat TMD. It works by shutting down the mechanism which allows the muscles to contract.  Capati Dental can refer you to a trusted associate to administer the Botox®.

A trigger point is a sensitive or painful area in the muscle or fascia. Injection of a local anesthetic like Lidocaine or Bupivicaine into the trigger point may help relieve the symptoms and help the muscle relax.

Since misalignment of the teeth is often the underlying cause of TMD, changing how the teeth fit together (occlusion) is necessary to treat the disorder.  Changing the occlusion may be a simple case of locating and reducing high-stress areas on the biting surfaces of the teeth (occlusal equilibration).  If more change is necessary, restorations such as crowns and bridges may be necessary.  Orthodontics (moving teeth) or jaw surgery are other options to correct the occlusion.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most common form of sleep apnea, is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. If this happens, the body awakens briefly in order to resume breathing. This may happen many times during the night and results in poor sleep quality.

Sleep apnea is very common and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. However, because of the lack of awareness by the public and many healthcare professionals, the vast majority of sleep apnea cases remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences.

Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Several treatment options exist, and research into additional options continues.


The conventional method for treating sleep apnea is by use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. For those who can’t tolerate the CPAP machine, an oral appliance can be a viable alternative. Oral Appliance Therapy involves the use of an appliance that fits in the patient’s mouth (somewhat like a retainer) and keeps the lower jaw forward to open the airway during sleep. Though designs vary, the purpose is to assist in maintaining an open airway during sleep. Insurance providers usually require a sleep apnea referral from a primary physician in order to reimburse you for a sleep apnea oral appliance.

Oral appliance therapy is an excellent treatment for sleep apnea, snoring and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome. Capati Dental is aware of the medical ramifications and networks closely with the medical community when providing treatment.


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