How to Protect Your TMJ During Sleep
The time when you are asleep can often cause the most damage to your jaw and cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. It’s important to protect your teeth, jaw muscles, and joints while you sleep to prevent the condition from progressing.
Your sleep position is the most important thing to consider to protect your TMJ during sleep.
Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided at all costs as it can strain the jaw and encourage it to dislocate. If you are naturally a stomach sleeper, you’ll need to train yourself to avoid it. One way to do this by sewing a tennis ball into the front pocket of a shirt, and wearing that shirt to bed until you’ve trained yourself.
Sleeping on your side should also be avoided, but you may be able to find a special pillow with a gap near the jaw to help you avoid putting pressure on it while lying down.
The best position to protect your TMJ during sleep is by sleeping on your back. You may be more comfortable if you support your neck with a rolled up towel, and place a small pillow under your knees.
If your dentist has given you an oral device (like a night guard or dental splint), you need to wear it every single time you sleep. Your jaw is capable of biting down with much more force while you sleep compared to while you are awake, so it’s important to always wear it, even if you’re just taking a short nap.
If your TMJ disorder is caused by bruxism (jaw clenching and teeth grinding that usually occurs at night), it is crucial that you cut down on your caffeine and sugar intake. These dietary stimulants can activate the central nervous system, even while you are asleep. Even after you’ve cut down on these stimulants, it’s still important to continue to wear your oral device in case nighttime bruxism has become a habit for your jaw.
Your dentist may prescribe you certain medications for a reason, so be sure to comply with the medications and instructions you receive.
For example, magnesium can regulate muscle contractions and contribute to deeper and more restful sleep. Muscle relaxers may also be prescribed to take before bed in order to relax your jaw muscles and protect your teeth and TMJs. Additionally, benzodiazepines may be prescribed to quite the active part of your brain that encourages you to clench and grind during sleep so your joints and muscles can recover.
By not complying with your medication routine, you run the risk of prolonging your treatment plan and further damaging your joints.
Preparing for sleep
Relaxing the mind and body are both important for protecting the TMJ during sleep. Try doing some light, full-body stretches before bed. You can also do some light yoga, take a warm bath with epsom salt and lavender oil, and try nighttime guided meditations like those found on the meditation app, Headspace.
Managing your TMJ disorder at home is a necessary step in improving the condition, but treatment should still be prescribed and monitored by a dentist or TMJ specialist. For help managing your TMJ disorder, contact the trusted professionals at Advanced Dental Implant and TMJ Center. You can visit their website, or call them at (662) 655-4868 to ask questions or to schedule an appointment.