Becoming tongue-tied is much more than becoming nervous and shying away from what you want to say. It’s an actual medical condition that can cause severe life-long issues if not corrected. One of these issues is TMJ disorders. Keep reading to learn more about tongue-tie and its connection to TMJ disorders.

What Are TMJ Disorders?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your lower jaw (also known as your mandible) to your skull. Everyone has two — they are on both sides of your face, just in front of your ears. It is the joint responsible for opening and closing the jaw, which also means it is in charge of how you speak, eat, and breathe.

When there are issues with the TMJ area, they are known as TMJ disorders. Over 10 million Americans suffer from some kind of TMJ disorder. These disorders can cause tenderness, aching, or pain at the joint, other facial pain, neck and shoulder pain, and difficulty moving the joint.

Statistics Surrounding TMJ Disorders

  • The prevalence of temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJD) is between 5% and 12%
  • Unusual for chronic pain conditions, the prevalence rates of TMJ disorders are higher among younger persons
  • TMJ disorders are at least twice as prevalent in women as men
  • Women using either supplemental estrogen or oral contraceptives are more likely to seek treatment

Causes for TMJ Disorders

The interesting thing about TMJ Disorders is that there is no one exact cause. It is a condition that is unique to each person who experiences it, including causes and treatments. There is also no standard definition for TMJD. The condition is diagnosed by measuring the various types of muscle, joint, and facial pain, difficulty with chewing, joint sounds.

Some of the common causes for TMJ Disorders include:

  • Injury to the jaw
  • Arthritis
  • Erosion of the joint
  • Teeth grinding
  • Frequent clenching of the jaw
  • Structural issues present at birth
  • Poor posture
  • Prolonged stress
  • Lack of sleep

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

Similar to the causes for TMJ disorders, the symptoms of TMJ Disorders vary greatly. They range in severity, and some individuals may experience few symptoms while some individuals may experience all of them. Some individuals may even only experience symptoms on one side of the face, however, it is most common for TMJ Disorders to occur on both sides of the face.

The most common symptoms of TMJ Disorders include:

  • Frequent pain in the jaw and its surrounding muscles
  • Face and neck pain
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Limited movement of the jaw
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Clicking or popping sound from the jaw area, even when it is not always painful
  • A shift in the jaw
  • Malocclusion, also known as the upper and lower teeth not lining up or a change in how they line up

What is Tongue-Tie?

Ankyloglossia, the medical term for tongue-tie, is a condition that a baby is born with. Tongue-tie restricts the tongue’s range of motion, which can lead to a host of issues if not corrected. It hasn’t yet been found exactly what causes this, however, tongue-tie can be hereditary and runs in some families.

According to Cedars-Sinai, some children have a frenulum that is too short and tight at birth. The frenulum may attach to the tip of the tongue instead of attaching farther back. When that happens, the tongue can’t move around normally. The child might have trouble sticking his or her tongue out, moving it from side to side, or bending it to touch the upper teeth. The tongue often has a notch at its tip, and these problems can cause trouble with speaking and eating.

The condition is divided into categories, based on how well the tongue can move:

  • Class 1: Mild tongue-tie
  • Class 2: Moderate
  • Class 3: Severe tongue-tie
  • Class 4: The tongue can hardly move at all

Symptoms of Tongue-Tie

Similar to TMJ Disorders, tongue-tie and its symptoms vary greatly between each individual who experiences it. Some babies do not have any issues with their tongue-tie and it is able to resolve on its own, while some babies experience great difficulty and life-long issues. Symptoms of tongue-tie can be found in both the baby and the mother to help diagnose the condition. Up to 50% more moms of tongue-tied babies suffer from postpartum depression than those without, making it very important to take both sets of symptoms seriously.

Symptoms of Tongue-Tie in a baby:

  • Difficulty with latching while breastfeeding
  • Slow weight gain due to breastfeeding difficulty
  • Failure to thrive
  • Inability or difficulty moving the tongue side to side
  • Inability or difficulty sticking the tongue out past the teeth
  • Difficulty lifting the tongue up
  • Tip of the tongue appears notched or heart-shaped
  • The appearance of an obvious “string” near the tip of the underside of the tongue
  • Milk frequently dribbling out of the mouth during feedings
  • Frequent fussing and crying beyond what is common for a newborn
  • Extremely long feedings
  • Gas and colic
  • Tucking of the upper lip during feedings
  • Difficulty with a pacifier
  • Arched back or otherwise acting tense during feedings

Symptoms of Tongue-Tie in a mother:

  • Nursing that is painful beyond what is normally expected
  • Frequent Mastitis or clogged ducts due to the baby’s inability to suck
  • Cut, flattened, bleeding, or bruised nipples
  • Throbbing nipples
  • Milk production becoming slow or stopping due to the baby’s inability to latch or suck

Treatment for Tongue-Tie

Mild cases of tongue-tie can correct themselves over time due to the frenulum stretching. However, in more severe cases of tongue-tie, other treatment options may need to be considered. These include surgery, speech therapy, and oral exercises.


There are two types of surgeries for tongue-tie, which may be offered quickly after birth, even before the baby and mother are discharged from the hospital. These surgeries include:

  • Frenotomy. A Frenotomy is a procedure in which the lingual frenulum is cut. The quick procedure involves holding the tongue up towards the roof of the mouth to make the frenulum taut, then cutting through the tissue along a line parallel with, and fairly close to, the tongue. The cut is made in a single motion in less than a second, anesthesia is not necessary, and the only risk is excessive bleeding. Normally, there is only a drop of blood or less and the entire procedure is completed in under a minute.
  • Frenuloplasty. This surgical option may be offered when the tongue-tie is too thick for a frenotomy. In this procedure, a piece of the frenulum may be removed, rather than just simply cut.

Speech Therapy

In many instances, a child may have no issues with their tongue-tie until they are a little older. It is then individuals may start noticing difficulty with eating solids and with speech. Speech therapy will help the tongue’s limited range of motion and stretch the frenulum.

Oral Exercises

Similar to speech therapy, oral exercises can help with tongue-tie issues. These oral exercises are called Myofunctional Therapy, which is performing strength exercises to help improve the mouth and jaw. Much like exercises of any other part of the body, the more you do it, the stronger you will become. Through these exercises, the tongue will move into a more natural and normal resting posture which will help in many areas such as breathing, sleeping, eating, and speaking.

Connection Between Tongue Tie and TMJ Disorders

When a tongue-tie is present and impacts the way a child speaks and eats, it will cause the jaw muscles to work in ways that are unnatural. Tongue-tie leads to improper resting posture because of this, and the jaw becomes overworked. All of these things lead to pain in the jaw area, which adds up to TMJ Disorders.

Other Impacts of Tongue-Tie and TMJ Disorders

Tongue-tie and TMJ Disorder can lead to the same consequences if left untreated. These include eating issues, sleep apnea, speech issues, and poor oral health. If you or your child is suffering from tongue-tie or other TMJ Disorders, we can help you. We specialize in treating sleep apnea conditions, TMJ Disorders, and healthy oral growth and development for children.

Eating Issues

Tongue-tie and TMJ Disorders will cause eating issues whether you are a day old or a full-grown adult. These issues include:

  • Inability to open the mouth wide enough for a successful latch
  • Eating food slowly
  • Becoming a picky eater about texture
  • Frequent gagging or choking
  • Frequent snacking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty with certain foods, such as licking an ice cream cone or sucking on a lollipop
  • Easily distracted and seems uninterested while eating
  • Inability to lick their own lips

Sleep Apnea

Tongue-ties and TMJ have an impact on facial structure and development since the tongue and jaw are not working in a natural manner. They are working overtime in different ways to compensate for the tongue-tie and TMJ Disorder issues.

These structural and developmental issues can lead to problems with airway functions. The tongue is not able to properly rest on the palate, which becomes an obstruction that causes sleep apnea.

Children, adolescents, and adults with tongue-tie may experience sleep apnea due to the following symptoms:

  • Nasal breathing
  • Heavy snoring
  • Restricted movement of the tongue
  • Lower jaw sticking out farther than the upper teeth
  • Altered palate development
  • Neck and back pain
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Shoulder pain
  • Bad posture

Speech Issues

It is no surprise that due to the restricted movement of the tongue due to tongue-tie, a child may start experiencing speech issues. These speech issues include:

  • Difficulty making certain sounds, particularly “t,” “d,” “r”, “l, “z,” “s,” and “th”
  • Speech delay
  • Lisp
  • Difficult to understand, beyond what is normal for a young child

Poor Oral Health

Tongue-tie and TMJ Disorders can cause poor oral health. Most commonly, this includes teeth gaps, gingivitis, or tooth decay. Tooth surfaces may be more prone to damage in places they normally shouldn’t have wear. In addition, teeth that are misaligned can cause damage and pain when they impact each other, and decay and cavities can be more common.

About Gorman Health and Wellness

Martin N. Gorman, D.D.S. is a highly trained practitioner with over 40 years of experience in dentistry. He specializes in the treatment of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), sleep disorders, and epigenetic orthodontics. Providing patients with relief from the adverse effects of TMJ Disorders, this condition has become one of the primary focuses of Dr. Gorman’s dental practice.

His goal is to allow patients to be pain-free, thereby improving the quality of their lives. He offers a complete, all-natural, non-surgical in-office program for treating TMJ problems and related symptoms, such as headaches, jaw pain, bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding), and tinnitus (ringing in the ears possibly from neck pain and jaw pain).

He believes all of his patients should have an opportunity to achieve optimal dental health in a safe, caring, anxiety-free environment. He is committed to patient comfort. As a biosynthetic trained dentist, Dr. Gorman recognizes that successful and predictable esthetic dentistry must be functional and in harmony with all parts of the chewing system.

Dr. Gorman has been uniquely trained to accurately diagnose problems with the chewing system and provide the most conservative dental therapies necessary to correct the underlying causes of tooth wear—not just the symptoms.

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