Do you have TMJ pain?

Everyone knows TMJ pain is caused from teeth grinding and jaw popping right? Well, hold on a minute. Have you ever considered the role of your tongue in TMJ? I ask because I am a speech language pathologist, we are the “tongue specialists” and I never really thought about the connection until I saw first hand what happens when complex TMJ patients who have been through the gamut of treatment options decide to address the tongue and lo and behold, the TMJ pain resolves!

This discovery made me dig a little deeper. Did you know that your tongue is not just one simple muscle? It is in fact 8 muscles working in synchrony to create very unique and dynamic functions such as chewing, swallowing, speaking, singing and just hanging out resting while you breathe. If you look at the muscles of the tongue you realize that the tongue actually hinges through the styloid process just under the temporal mandibular joint (commonly referred to as TMJ). This is the extrinsic lingual muscle known as the styloglossus muscle, which works in tandem with the other 7 muscles for the tongue to have fluid, effortless movement as it goes about its duties.

muscles of the tongue

But what if it doesn’t? What if those 8 muscles are out of balance? What if they aren’t working in tandem? What if 1 or 2 or 4 are working more than they should because others are working less than they should? What if that hinge is out of balance and it creates tension or pressure? Could it cause pain? Would that pain be in the TMJ region? Could it radiate to the neck, shoulders, head? What if you brace it or impede it so that they “have” to work in synchrony? Does it work? Maybe. Until the muscles figure out a way to compensate around it.

What if you train the muscles to work in synchrony? Does that work? Yes! Creating balance of strength and function of the tongue both at rest and in motion can eliminate the need for mouth-guards or appliances worn to prevent contact or misalignment that is likely caused by a tongue that is out of balance. It certainly is preferred over surgery or injections.

This tongue imbalance is common with tongue thrust because the front of the tongue is doing all of the work and pulling in a forward and downward position both at rest and in motion. Over time misalignments can become malformations. Don’t believe me, check out the gait pattern of a person with a chronic knee injury or what about kyphosis of the back? These are larger structures and we know muscles working incorrectly affect posture, development, alignment and function. Why haven’t we made this connection with the smaller more specialized muscles of the tongue that impact the facial structures?

Tongue thrust is not a cosmetic issue. Tongue thrust is not an articulation issue. Tongue thrust is an issue of function and structure and the long-term implications for swallowing disorders and often pain are significant.  It’s time to look at effective tongue thrust therapy, the elimination of the tongue thrust, as a viable treatment option to remediate the potential underlying cause of the TMJ pain and stop the chronic, progressive and debilitating condition.

The Stone Tongue Thrust Protocol is a clinically proven treatment protocol that efficiently eliminates the tongue thrust by targeting the imbalance of the tongue muscles aligning their function at rest and in motion. When the muscles are working properly the condition is eliminated.

Almost always clients are in treatment with orthodontia and/or TMJ when they come to us. It’s no big deal, remember we’re working with the tongue rather than the teeth and the jaw. The tongue is quite resilient and accommodates the environment so our job is to make sure it is not creating a more unnatural or abnormal posture as we work WITH the orthodontist or TMJ specialist to enhance the treatment so that in the end the patient no longer has a tongue thrust and the work done in orthodontia becomes permanent and/or the TMJ issues are relieved.

Wouldn’t you like to eliminate the pain once and for all? Wouldn’t you like an efficient and proven method to retrain the tongue? It’s time to consider the impact of the tongue on the TMJ and utilize the Stone Tongue Thrust Protocol to eliminate the imbalance in the tongue once and for all.

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