There are many conservative treatments to reduce facial pain. They range from things patients can do at home to office-based interventions. Reduction of habits such as tooth grinding or jaw clenching is essential to most treatment. There are simple self-awareness exercises to help with this. Physical therapy modalities can be employed at home to gain better range of jaw motion and reduce pain. Sometimes a referral to a physical therapist is needed. Oral appliances which have many different names, such as biteplates, night guards and oral repositioners, can be constructed. There are many types of biteplates and knowing which one to use is important. Medication can supplement other treatment. There are various categories of medications to use including, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. Medication is a very personal decision and is not right for everyone. Sometimes muscle injections are appropriate. There are two types of medication that can be injected, an anesthetic such as Lidocaine or Botox. Reduction of the stress response is important for many people; it helps improve sleep and reduces pain.
The good news is that most people are helped with simple conservative care.
The most common treatment a dentist can provide is an oral appliance that holds the lower jaw forward and thereby opens the airway removing the obstruction. In addition to oral appliances a sleep physician can order a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) or a surgeon can sometimes operate to enlarge the airway. For mild to moderate sleep apnea an oral appliance is indicated. There are many different designs of oral appliances but essentially they all maintain the mandible in a forward position.
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that needs to be properly diagnosed by a sleep physician. A sleep study is usually required to identify all the details of the sleep disorder. There are two types of sleep studies; one is an overnight stay at a sleep lab the other is done at home. The overnight study at the sleep lab is the gold standard and is very comprehensive; the downside is that it is costly and requires a night in the lab. The home study is much more convenient and less expensive but gives less information.