How Orthodontics Can Help Sleepless Nights

We all know the importance of sleep. But do you know the importance of your oral health care routine in relation to good sleep? At Farrow & Dewbre, we pride ourselves on ensuring our patients receive full-service oral care. This includes providing information to ensure you know the best options for treatment available. Today we want to discuss the importance of maintaining regular sleeping habits and how orthodontics can impact them.  

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that interrupts your breathing patterns while you sleep. There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. This type of apnea occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.

Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea are available. One treatment involves using a device that uses positive pressure to keep your airway open while you sleep. Another option is a mouthpiece to thrust your lower jaw forward during sleep. In some cases, surgery might be an option too.

There are 3 main types of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax
  • Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea

Contributing factors

As with most medical conditions, your lifestyle choices and every day habits can contribute to your symptoms. Risk factors for sleep apnea include age and obesity. It’s more common in men; however, overweight women can be more susceptible to the effects of sleep apnea. Other contributing factors such as family history, age, drug and alcohol use, and how active you are can also determine the severity of symptoms. Treatment often includes lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, and the use of a breathing assistance device at night, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine

Knowing the signs of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea’s effects range from disruptive to dangerous depending on the severity of your symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Awakening with a dry mouth
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia) 


TMJ is a condition where patients feel pain in the joints and muscles that control jaw movement. 

While you sleep, your mouth and jaw muscles will naturally start to relax with the rest of your body. The joints in your jaw act like sliding hinges, connecting your jawbone to your skull. Sometimes to ease discomfort from TMJ, these hinges slide back so patients will clench or grind their teeth, causing trauma to the jaw, the head, or the neck. 

During sleep cycles, patients who struggle with conditions such as TMJ (or TMD) may experience sleep disruptions due to the constant pain and discomfort experienced while sleeping. 

How Orthodontics Can Help Sleepless NightsTMJ Symptoms

TMJ is tricky to track because there can be multiple reasons a patient feels pain in their jaw. Generally, symptoms of TMJ can include: 

  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw
  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
  • Aching facial pain
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth

TMJ disorders are also notable for creating a clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew. Often called lockjaw. If a patient doesn’t feel pain or movement limits associated with jaw clicking, you probably don’t need treatment for a TMJ disorder.

In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders are temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments. 

Orthodontic Treatment 

Some cases of TMJ are more serious than others, so it’s important to consult your orthodontist for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you find that you suffer from TMJ conditions, there are several ways your orthodontist may be able to help. If sleep apnea is generally a structural issue, patients may find relief by slightly altering the jaw position. This can be done through adjustment in sleeping habits. Orthodontists can also adjust the patient’s lower jaw to remain in the ideal position while sleeping. This process is completed with special appliances, or in some cases, with orthodontic treatment.

First,  braces/aligners and elastics that shift the bottom jaw forward may be used to treat obstructive sleep apnea caused by misaligned teeth. These devices slowly but methodically move teeth out of their incorrect positions and into positions where the teeth won’t block the airway. Braces and aligners can both be used to treat children’s and adults’ sleep apnea, with aligners offering a less noticeable look than braces.

Second, a rapid palate expander is sometimes used to treat obstructive sleep apnea issues in children. The device is affixed to the upper molars by cemented bands or bonding, and it has a portion that bridges across the upper jaw. The purpose of a rapid palate expander is to help widen the space in the upper jaw.

Third, a mandibular advancement splint is a custom-fit brace that changes jaw alignment during sleep. The device moves the lower jaw slightly forward and downward. The effect of this small movement is a widening of the airway, witch reduces the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.

How Orthodontics Can Help Sleepless NightsDream of a brighter smile with Farrow & Dewbre Orthodontics

Getting back to a good night’s sleep is just a step away. At Farrow & Dewbre Ortho, we proudly serve patients of all ages, so contact us at our offices in Edmond, Oklahoma City, Clinton, and Deer Creek. Your Farrow & Dewbre Orthodontics team is ready to talk with you about your questions or concerns. Be sure to schedule your free consultation today! We can’t wait to meet you.