Strange Bedfellows: Your Tongue and TMJ

Your tongue does more than taste. One of the strongest and most flexible muscles in our bodies, we also use it to chew, talk, swallow, sign and kiss, but a lesser-known role of our tongues is as a jaw pillow. Your tongue normally lies just behind your upper teeth. In its proper position, your tongue supports your jaw and your upper dental arch.

How TMJ Could Affect Your Tongue

If you have misaligned bite, it could affect where your tongue rests in your mouth. If your tongue can’t rest in the correct position, because of a narrow mouth or overbite, it can impact on your breathing. With these conditions, your tongue might not have enough space, and it will be pushed too far back in your mouth to do its job properly.

How Your Tongue Could Result in TMJ

It begins in childhood. If a child can’t breathe through their nose, usually because of allergies, they’ll breathe through their mouth instead. Mouth breathing causes the child’s tongue to drop down to allow air into the lungs. In this position, the tongue can no longer act as the child’s dental arch support. Over time, this condition can change the shape of the child’s developing upper jaw. An underdeveloped jaw can lead to a constricted dental arch resulting in TJM issues.

Let’s get back to sleep

dental-emergency-sanjose-losgatosSleep problems like snoring and sleep apnea are often caused by a TMJ jaw alignment problem. A narrow jaw or a deep over-bite forces your tongue to the back of your mouth, blocking your airway.

Beyond being disruptive to your sleep, snoring can put you at risk for some serious health problems, like obstructive sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, you may think you’re getting sleeping enough, but you’re not. Sleep apnea stops your breathing briefly throughout the night waking you up for a moment each time. You may not even be aware of it. The result: you’re sleep-deprived despite thinking you got enough rest.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD

Treat your TMJ and Resolve your Sleep Problems

Untreated sleep problems like snoring and sleep apnea can have a negative impact on your performance in everyday activities, such as work, school, or sports. Of more concern are the safety issues sleep deprivation can cause such as accidents and car crashes.

Trained in neuromuscular (TMJ) dentistry, Dr. Nancy Nehawandian of Top Down Dental in San Jose/Los Gatos can help you, by diagnosing and providing treatment options for your airway-related TMJ problems. We make use of the CS 9300 – a revolutionary imaging tool that allows us to provide our patients with more accurate diagnoses, with more comfort and less radiation – to help us diagnose TMJ. By looking into TMJ jaw alignment issues, and treating your snoring or sleep apnea, you’ll start getting the sleep that is critical to your health and well-being.