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Temporo-mandibular Joint dysfunction

How TMJ can affect your sleep and cause headaches

Some people may think that dentistry is all about oral hygiene and having a nice smile. However, it goes so much further than this. Issues within your mouth can actually cause other problems in different parts of your body and affect your health.

TMJ, or Temporo-mandibular Joint dysfunction in one such oral issue that can create difficulties elsewhere in the body. So, what is TMJ? TMJ is when your upper and lower teeth don’t quite line up perfectly, giving you an uneven bite. This might sound like a purely cosmetic issue but it does unfortunately carry some negative consequences. 

Every time you bite down, your jaw muscles exert force on whatever you’re chewing. Your teeth are designed to withstand this force. However, if there is a slight misalignment, then it makes it harder for your teeth to handle it. This is where the problems lie. It puts more pressure on your jaw joint and muscles, which can cause a range of symptoms.

For example, it makes your muscles and jaw joint ache and feel very sore. This creates tension, which can actually spread through the skull causing headaches and migraines. You could even start to hear clicking or popping within the joint and, in severe cases, develop lockjaw. It can even give you earaches, even if there’s nothing wrong with your ear and create pain behind the eyes, making it painful to keep them open or when it’s bright.

Your teeth are also not designed to withstand pressure from a bite when they’re misaligned. This can therefore damage them, making wear and tear more likely, which leads to loose teeth or fracturing. What makes this worse is that TMJ often causes teeth grinding when you sleep.

Teeth grinding isn’t just annoying for loved ones who might have to hear it, it’s also very damaging to your teeth and jaw. It causes and compounds all the other symptoms of TMJ as described above. Signs that you’re suffering from it could be worn down and flat teeth, pain and soreness in your jaw muscles and joint and tiredness.

This is because grinding your teeth while your sleep severely affects the quality of your sleep. Constant grinding creates tension and pain which harms sleep quality. It’s much harder to fall asleep if you’re in pain. Another issue is that if you clench your jaw shut it can actually make breathing harder, as it shuts the airways. This is especially true if your jaw doesn’t align properly.

When your airway is shut, your brain will panic and tell your body to gasp for breath as you sleep. If your brain has to keep doing this it will severely affect your sleep quality and you may start experiencing tiredness and fatigue when you wake up.

This condition is called sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea isn’t always caused by dental issues but they can exacerbate it, even if they weren’t the root cause. Lack of sleep can have a draining effect on your physical and mental health. Everyone needs a good night's sleep.

So, what can you do to prevent this? Unfortunately, over the counter painkillers don’t quite work. They may provide some pain relief for a limited time, but TMJ isn’t a temporary problem and you will need to tackle the main cause of it in order to permanently get rid of the pain.

Fortunately, there are solutions to TMJ and alleviating the pain and issues it causes. Here at This is it Dental, we can offer a range of bespoke treatments to treat TMJ and other occlusal disorders, such as a temporary night guard, splint therapy and also using digital technology to scan your whole jaw.

If we suspect that your problems are due to an incorrect bite, we may help to diagnose the problem by supplying a temporary soft nightguard or hard plastic appliance that fits over your upper or lower teeth. This appliance needs to be measured and fitted very accurately so that when you bite on it, all your teeth meet at exactly the same time in a position where your muscles are relaxed. You may have to wear this all the time or just at night. If the appliance relieves your symptoms, then your bite may need to be corrected permanently.

Splint therapy consists of a 3D complete examination of the joints, muscles, teeth and analysis of the patient's mouth on an instrument called an articulator. This helps us analyse the patient's existing bite and movements, which then allows us to design and construct a custom splint. The splint gives the perfect bite which, over a period of time, helps the joint and muscle to recover. It's amazing how when the joint and muscle recovers, the patient even looks better!

Most recently at This is it Dental, we have been using a digital bite analyser called a Tekscan which graphically illustrates the patient's bite before, during and on completion of treatment. This is a great tool to verify and prove to the patient that what they are feeling is real and not just a figment of their imagination. Often in dentistry this is overlooked by our profession and this can be why patients don’t get the treatment they require as quickly as possible.

If you’re having issues with dental pain that might be causing headaches and sleep issues, don’t hesitate to get in touch today for a free online consultation. If you are suffering from TMJ or another occlusal disorder, our cutting-edge, bespoke treatments will help fix your bite and relieve your pain!

Our Harley Street clinic is open for business and we have made sure all appointments are completely Covid-safe and hygienic. We can also arrange a free online consultation. Get in touch today: email us:


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