It is known that 80% of people who grind their teeth during sleep have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The grinding occurs with each apnea event. For this reason, a patient who is a known “bruxer” (a person who involuntarily grinds their teeth) should be screened for sleep-disordered breathing. This can be as simple as filling out a questionnaire called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which is a standard scale used to screen patients for excessive daytime sleepiness and is used by many doctors who suspect a patient may have a sleep disorder. If a patient scores high on the scale, they are likely to have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, and the patient may be referred to a sleep lab or a home sleep study to test for OSA or other disorders.
The oral appliance can help reduce TMJ pain by changing the patient’s bite temporarily, by reducing the pressure of the joint, and by altering the position of the jaw temporarily so that it doesn’t rest on the painful and inflamed joint tissues. Many of the appliances that treat OSA will also eliminate the TMJ symptoms. At Laguna Hills Center for Sleep Apnea, we treat patients with oral appliances for both TMJ and sleep apnea disorders.