Is TMJ Disorder Linked to Sleep Apnea?

woman holding jaw. text: Find out if TMJ disorder and sleep apnea are linked.

It’s hard to know what’s happening behind the scenes with our bodies, especially when we’re sleeping.

Many patients don’t realize they’re:

  • Grinding teeth
  • Having trouble breathing at night
  • Experiencing facial soreness
  • And more

These symptoms point to either sleep apnea or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

We’ll focus on two main points in our blog:

  • Are TMJ disorder and sleep apnea linked?
  • What treatment is available to fix it?

Let’s dive right in.

What is TMJ disorder?

Your TMJ connects your jaw to your skull, and allows you to eat, speak, and smile.

When your jaw is inflamed or misaligned, it can lead to TMJ disorder.

You may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Stiff jaw, neck, or shoulders
  • Clicking or popping in your jaw joints

When left untreated, it leads to:

  • Persistent headaches
  • Chronic jaw pain
  • Tooth loss
  • Digestive issues
  • Heart problems

It may take a combination of medical and oral exams to diagnose.


An accurate diagnosis and treatment treats your symptoms and allows you to go through your daily routine without the added pain.

What causes TMJ disorder?

TMJ disorder occurs when your jaw isn’t in its optimal position.

This is typically caused by:

  • Oral trauma
  • Facial muscle fatigue
  • Teeth grinding (Spoiler alert: This is also a symptom of sleep apnea!)
  • Bone cartilage damage around the joint
  • Genetics
  • Poor dental work

Stress is also one of the most significant factors of TMJ flare-ups.

It leads to clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth at night, and hormonal changes – which you can’t control, especially if you’re sleeping.

The excessive strain on your jaw affects chewing, swallowing, and speech.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when your body restricts the flow of oxygen through your nose or mouth at night, disrupting breathing patterns.

This occurs when your throat collapses in your sleep, leading to:

  • Snoring
  • Gasping for air in the middle of the night
  • Mouth breathing

Breathing interruptions can occur many times without you even noticing (but your partner might!).

Lack of oxygen during sleep can increase your risk of:

  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Other heart conditions

Treating the root cause of this problem will enhance your quality of sleep, which is essential to your overall health and daily recovery.

How are TMJ disorder and sleep apnea linked?

When you have a sleeping disorder, such as sleep apnea, your body responds automatically to the disrupted oxygen flow.

In many cases, it leads to an automatic clenching of your teeth and TMJ joints, causing constant tension in your jaws.

Headaches, jaw pain, and fatigue indicate an overlap of both disorders.

Multiple studies and research… This text opens a new tab to the US National Library of Medicine website… found that many people have both sleep apnea and TMJ disorder. People who suffer from sleep apnea were more likely to grind their teeth, which leads to other TMJ disorder symptoms.

While this indicates a correlation and not causation, it’s important to note that sleep apnea is a risk factor for TMJ disorder.

It may be difficult to self-diagnose, but talking to your dentist will help you identify the problem.

What treatment is available to fix it?

There are different methods of treatment your dental provider can use to treat sleep apnea and TMJ disorder.

Treating the lack of oxygen flow at night allows your body to get the rest it needs and stops your brain from signaling to your teeth and TMJ to clench.

Schedule a consultation with your dentist to find out your options.

Our dental office in Kennesaw creates a custom-fitted sleep device to align your jaw in its optimal position to keep your airway open. We also use non-surgical, non-invasive techniques to treat your TMJ disorder.

Where can I find relief for TMJ disorder or sleep apnea in Kennesaw, GA?

Dr. Eric Duncan and our compassionate dental team at Brookpointe Dental are ready to improve your quality of life by fixing the root causes of TMJ and sleep apnea disorder.

His education includes thousands of hours in continuing education with an emphasis on head, neck, and facial pain treatment, dental cosmetics, and dental reconstruction.

Dr. Duncan is one of less than 1% of dentists worldwide to have completed the full mouth curriculum at the world-renowned Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies.

Take control of your life and eliminate your TMJ or sleep apnea pain by scheduling a consultation with us today.

Request an Appointment


Our office is conveniently located in Kennesaw, GA,… This text opens a new tab to the Google Maps website… and we happily welcome patients from the neighboring communities, including Marietta, Acworth, Woodstock, Fair Oaks, Northeast Cobb, Emerson, Cartersville, Dallas, and Powder Springs, GA.

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