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Author: Dr. Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS

If a patient is suffering from jaw pain, how do they get comfortable and sleep at night? This is often a common question from patients who are struggling to get that good night’s rest every night. Getting a good night’s rest is important for the healing process. Here are some tips to help your patients get a better night’s sleep.

Pay Attention to the Sleep Position

Your patient’s sleeping position is hard to change because it is one of the longest standing habits a person has in their life. But it is important to remember that some sleeping positions are better than others. While changing the position a patient sleeps in takes time and effort, it can help a lot in the long run. We recommend that patients sleep on their sides because it can help decrease the clenching of the jaw. Sleeping on the back is OK as well, but it is not as beneficial as sleeping on a person’s side.

For patients with TMJ pain, there are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing a good sleep position. When speaking to your patients, it is important to address the following information with them:

  • Think about how the head and neck are supported. This may mean investing in a new pillow that offers the support you need to wake feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.
  • Don’t choose a position where your head or neck muscles are strained in any way. If you feel even a little strain, it’s best to choose a new position.
  • Determine whether you’ll be likely to clench your jaw or grind your teeth while you’re sleeping in that position.

Choose the Right Pillows

When you go to the store there are so many different types of pillows to choose from. However, the problem is that pillows that are designed to prevent neck pain don’t often fit most people well. If you sleep on your side, here is what you can do to create your own support system with your pillow.

  • Place your pillow on the wall of the bathroom in front of a mirror where you can clearly see your reflection as you simulate laying on your side.
  • Rest the side of your body on the wall in a position comparable to how you sleep at night.
  • Your nose, chin and the center of your breastbone should line up and down, supported by the pillow.

Quick Tips for Better Sleep

Sometimes, sleeping in the right position isn’t enough—it’s just too hard to relax, and the pain is distracting. Here are some TMJ-tailored sleeping techniques and bedtime tips to help your patients get a better night’s rest.

  • Arm position is key. Sleeping on your back may seem limiting, especially if you’re not used to it, but remember you can utilize your arms and legs, placing them in ways that seem more comfortable. Just don’t pull your arms up by your head—that can strain your neck, causing more jaw pain.
  • Pay attention to your tongue. Weird, we know, but if your tongue is pushing against your front teeth when you’re resting, you might need to retrain it. Proper tongue rest should separate your teeth and relax your jaw.
  • Try bedtime yoga. Some light yoga before bed, especially a routine designed for neck pain and TMJ relief, could really help you relax. The “Superman” pose is a good starting point. Check with your doctor first if you’re unsure if yoga is right for you.

By helping your patients improve their sleep position and pillow, it can significantly improve the quality of sleep each night. However, if this does not relieve their pain, it is important to identify possible treatment options, including an oral appliance.

Contact Us

We host CE courses on Medical Billing for Dentists and clinical treatment of TMD disorders and Dental Sleep Medicine. For more information, contact Nierman Practice Management at 1-800-879-6468 or by visiting niermanpm.com/schedule.