TMJ is a common jaw disorder that affects maybe 30% of all Americans at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, TMJ can be very damaging to many functions of the jaw, including eating and speaking. One study even showed that women with TMJ experienced a lower quality of life in relation to their ability to speak. Here’s how TMJ makes speaking harder.

young professional male with jaw pain works on his laptop

Tense and Stressed Muscles

When you have TMJ, your jaw muscles are constantly working because they can’t find a comfortable rest position. This not only leads to damage to your teeth and joints, it can make your muscles tense and tight. They can have a hard time performing the proper motions to make speech sounds, so your speech can become slurred. You might find yourself mumbling and may have difficulty making yourself heard and understood.

Popping and Clicking Joints

A displaced disk in your temporomandibular joint may suddenly slip back into place while your jaw is moving. This can cause an irregular and sudden motion of the jaw as well as cause a popping or clicking sound.

This disruption of your normal jaw motion can interfere with speaking, and the popping sound can be distracting.

Tooth Damage

Your teeth perform a vital function in the shaping of speech sounds. TMJ can contribute to serious tooth wear, damage, and even tooth loss. As this happens, you might find you have trouble speaking clearly.

Stiff Jaw Joints

Your jaw joint might also make it hard for you to move your jaw. At the extreme, your jaw may become locked in place, which typically happens when you have a displaced disk that doesn’t want to move back into place. Obviously, when your jaw won’t move, you can’t speak at all, let alone clearly.

But even if your jaw motion is impeded by your jaw joint, you will find it hard to speak clearly and make yourself understood. You’ll know the difference between this and stiff jaw muscles because you’ll feel the resistance in your jaw joint rather than the stiffness in your muscles.

A displaced disc is characteristic of a degenerative form of jaw disorder. It’s important to seek treatment when you notice jaw popping, clicking obstructed or irregular motion, and, especially, if you experience a locked jaw. Don’t try to force a locked jaw to move–this can cause damage to the jaw joints.

Jaw Pain, Tinnitus, and Avoidance

It might be that you’re perfectly able to speak, but you don’t want to because your jaw hurts. Jaw pain is one of the most common symptoms of TMJ, and it can make you want to avoid certain jaw motions that bring on your pain. You might try speaking softly or avoid making certain sounds, which makes it hard for people to understand you.

The pain might also be in your ear. Sometimes people feel ear pain and tinnitus that changes as you move your jaw. The combination of moving your jaw and producing sound might just be too much on top of your ear pain and tinnitus, so you talk less and speak less clearly.

Treatment Orthotic

TMJ treatment can be good for your jaw, but that doesn’t always mean it’s good for your speech. Although an orthotic, also known as a bite splint, can help hold your jaw in the proper place to alleviate your symptoms, it may interfere with your speech.

The good news is that for most people, it’s only necessary to wear the orthotic at night, so there’s a minimum of inconvenience. Other times, it’s only necessary to wear the orthotic during the day for a little while, then you can switch to wearing it at night.

But what if you do have to wear your orthotic all day and you can’t adapt to it? Fortunately, once we’ve established that wearing the orthotic controls your symptoms, we can reconstruct your bite. This allows you to get the same results as the orthotic, but without the orthotic.

Remove TMJ from Your Life

Are you tired of TMJ interfering with your daily life? Whether it’s speech, sleep, or golf, many people find that TMJ makes a dramatic impact on their quality of life. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to live with the condition. We can help eliminate your TMJ.

To learn more about TMJ treatment in the Detroit area, please call (248) 480-0085 for an appointment with TMJ dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness.