TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is, in essence, a jaw joint that is misaligned. When the joint in the jaw is not aligned properly, all kinds of symptoms may begin to arise. While you may not initially think your tongue would also be affected by TMJ, the disorder can affect everything from your breathing to your speech, your balance to your bite. Learn three key ways TMJ affects your tongue and what you can do to correct TMJ once it has begun to affect you.
Your tongue is responsible for keeping your whole jaw relaxed and for assisting you with tasting and digesting your food. When TMJ is present, the entire alignment of your mouth and jaw is thrown off balance. The tongue can be forced towards the back of your throat, and can even begin to partially or fully block your airway. When this happens, you may have trouble breathing by day and may develop sleep apnea – a potentially fatal disease where you cease from breathing during sleep.
2. Muscle spasms
It may not look like it, but the tongue is a muscle. When the jaw is misaligned and tight, nearby muscles can spasm and even begin to go numb. This is partly a circulation issue and partly a tension issue. A spasming tongue is no laughing matter – patients report it is quite painful!
The tongue is an integral component of producing sounds and words properly. When the jaw is out of alignment and the tongue is thus thrown out of alignment, it can become difficult to speak clearly. You may find you develop a lisp, or you have trouble forming certain sounds or words. Ultimately, troubles with the tongue that affect speech can lead to anxiety and depression, requiring additional types of therapy in addition to bite correction.
Do you have TMJ?
The first thing you need to do is confirm a diagnosis of TMJ, which a dentist can do for you. Once you know exactly what is wrong, your dentist will prescribe a course of treatment to restore correct jaw misalignment. If you’d like to do a quick check, take my TMJ questionnaire and I’ll reply with a free, no-obligations diagnostic recommendation.