A Small Piece of Acryllic Can Save Your Teeth And Your Life

When I’m not in the office working with patients, I find myself researching new ways to help patients overcome their problems. I believe that everyone deserves a beautiful smile and that that can happen with modern, comfortable dentistry.

If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’m on a mission to redefine how my patients and those in the Geismar, La., community view dentistry. I work to implement new and advanced treatments, but I also believe it’s important for a dentist to be well-versed on all aspects of your smile. That’s why I have devoted a huge amount of my time studying problems like TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) and sleep apnea. These two problems go hand-in-hand, and they can be treated in a similar way.

Today I want to share some information about how a small piece of acrylic can save your smile and improve your life.  

What is TMD and how can a dentist help?

The TMJ is the hinge that connects the lower jaw and skull together. When the TMJ does not function properly, it can cause patients to clench or grind their teeth while they sleep. Grinding or clenching the teeth puts a huge amount of stress on the joint and teeth. People who grind or clench often wake up with nagging headaches or in extreme jaw pain. You can imagine why. Your TMJ is working overtime, and then we open and close our mouths hundreds of times throughout the day. People with TMJ problems often experience grinding, popping, or clicking of the jaw.

Until a few years ago, the only to treat TMD was with comprehensive orthodontics or surgery. These options are extremely invasive and can take years to complete. Now TMJ can be treated with an oral appliance. The oral appliances, we called it a splint, can stop the grinding and clench and helps save the teeth. The splint balances the TMJ muscles and jaw muscles, so instead of working throughout the night, the muscles are now relaxed. After just a few nights wearing the splint, you’ll wake up more relaxed and your jaw pains and headaches will subside.

* IMPORTANT NOTE: Many dental providers and researchers believe that TMD and sleep apnea are closely related. The belief is that TMD can increase your risk of sleep apnea and that sleep apnea can worsen TMD.

What is sleep apnea and how can a dentist help?

Sleep apnea is a problem is which you experience pauses in breathing during sleep. There are two forms of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea, and it occurs when soft tissue blocks or obstructs the airway during sleep. Those with sleep apnea often experience loud snoring or wake up gasping for air at night. Patients with serious obstructive sleep apnea can stop breathing as often as 30 times an hour.

Sleep apnea can be deadly, in that you can stopped breathing as a results. Additionally, sleep apnea is an oral health problem that has been connected to problems like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Because sleep apnea leads to pauses in breathing, your body is not getting enough oxygen levels. You’ll also wake up feeling exhausted — even after you have had a full eight hours of rest.

For years, the most common way to treat sleep apnea was with a CPAP machine. The CPAP machine is still the gold standard of treatment, but it has its disadvantages. Many patients find the CPAP uncomfortable, and many people do not wear the machine — the compliance rate is only about 50 percent.  This is why we invested in alternative sleep apnea treatments like using oral appliances. The oral appliance is custom fit to your mouth. You’ll wear it overnight, and the device will keep your airways open.

Similar to the TMJ oral appliance, patients notice a positive results within just a few nights. Our patients notice that their headaches go away and that they feel more rested when they wake up in the morning.

It’s amazing to me what an oral appliance can do for your health. If you are struggling from sleep apnea or TMJ issues, you can find relief at my office. Give us a call today at  225-963-5548.