TMJ problems affect the tongue, though more serious conditions can also cause symptoms involving the tongue such as cancer or a neurological disease

“TMJ disorders and tongue issues are closely related,” says Dr. Idan Snapir, DDS, of the Dental Smile Center in Van Nuys, CA.

“TMJ can cause mouth imbalance and as a result change the tongue position during speaking and swallowing actions,” continues Dr. Snapir. “This can lead to pain, numbness and tingling in the tongue.”

When TMJ disorder affects swallowing, this is called deviate swallows.

For example, an improper swallowing action can be caused by a forward head posture or an over-closed bite – two features that can arise from temporomandibular joint disorder.

“Also, the effect of bruxism [teeth grinding during sleep] is wearing and chipping teeth, creating sharp teeth edges that can injure and cut the tongue, also creating indentation and scalloping on both sides of the tongue or vice versa,” says Dr. Snapir. “Tongue issues can lead to TMJ as well.”

Airway Obstruction Caused by
Tongue Problem Caused by
TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder can cause the lower jaw to slip backwards while a person is sleeping on their back.

The combination of gravity and sleep position causes the lower mandible to slide backwards towards the back of the throat (airway).

When this happens the base of the tongue also shifts backwards.

The tongue base can partially or completely obstruct the airway – causing obstructive sleep apnea.

A sleep study (done at home or at a sleep lab) is the only way to diagnose sleep apnea.

For many years Dr. Snapir has promoted dental health, treated TMJ disorder, created beautiful smiles and improved the overall well-being of thousands of patients. He will customize the best possible treatment plan for every patient.