TMJ Pain Caused by Sleep Disorders or Sleep Apnea?

Medically Reviewed By
Jonathan G. Campbell, DDS, FAGD
One of the top rated Dentist in Salt Lake City, UT
A man with an Oxygen mask for sleep

It is estimated that as many as 30% of the population has some form of temperomandibular joint disorder. This is commonly referred to as TMJ. TMJ disorders affect the jaw joint including the ligaments and joint capsule, and the muscles that support the jaw and the head and neck. Oftentimes there is a history of trauma associated with the TMJ disorders, but new research is showing that there is a strong correlation between those that have sleep disorders and having a TMJ disorder. It has been found that 40% of “TMJ” patients have one or more sleep disorders. It has become incumbent for a dentist evaluating a patient for a TMJ problem to screen for sleep disorders and to make an appropriate referral to their physician or a sleep specialist for evalutation.


One of the most common sleep disorders is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is caused by obstruction of the airway. This often is manifest as snoring that then sometimes leads to complete obstruction of breathing following which the person awakens to restore breathing, and then the pattern repeats. This can happen many times in an hour. These repeated awakening disturb good sleep and lead to a person feeling tired, but of more concern are implicated in higher risk for other life-threatening conditions. A diagnosis of sleep apnea is most commonly made following a sleep study. A sleep study involves having a patient sleep in a monitored environment where breathing, pulse, blood pressure, and other vital signs are closely monitored.

A very common treatment for those diagnosed with sleep apnea is a a machine called CPAP.

It blows a gently stream into the nose while a patient sleeps keeping the airway open. There are some patients that are unable to get used to sleepind with CPAP. A dentist can help some of these patients by fitting them for an appliance the holds the lower jaw forward opening the airway. Sometimese these dental devices are easier to get used to.

If you have jaw joint or jaw muscle pain. Make sure your dentist is asking about your sleep. Solving your jaw pain might be best solved by addressing any sleep issues you might have.


This article was written, by Dr. Jonathan Campbell. Dr. Campbell is a dentist in Salt Lake City, UT. Dr. Campbell fabricates snore-guards or sleep apnea appliances for his patients that have a recommendation from their physician for such a device.

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