TMJ is a jaw disorder (or, if you prefer, a collection of jaw disorders) that can have a profound impact on your life. In addition to disabling problems like jaw pain, headaches, and vertigo, TMJ can also make it harder for you to function because it can impair your speech.
Impaired Muscle Function
One of the most common effects of TMJ is that your jaw muscles will end up working excessively all day and night. This can make your jaw muscles tense and tight. They may have difficulty performing the fine motions necessary for speech. You might find that your jaw is stiff and can’t seem to move the way it used to.
As a result, your speech can become slurred. You may find yourself mumbling, and it can be especially hard to speak loudly.
Popping and Clicking Joints
If you have a displaced disk that slips in and out of place, it can disrupt your speech. Typically, your jaw will move smoothly to a certain point, then there will be a sudden pop, often with an irregular movement of the jaw, and then your jaw will move smoothly.
If this occurs while you’re speaking, your words can be disrupted either by the motion of the jaw or the sound of the popping joint.
Stiff Jaw Joints
Another problem is that your jaw joint might be stiff and won’t want to move. An extreme form of this is a locked jaw, where your jaw won’t open or close. This is usually associated with a displaced disc that won’t slip back into place.
If your jaw is stiff, it may have the same effect as with stiff muscles. It’s hard to make your jaw do what you want it to. It becomes hard to speak. A locking jaw is something else entirely. When your jaw locks in place, it can stop your speech mid-word, and you may not be able to speak until you can release your jaw, which you should not do on your own, since it could potentially result in damage to your jaw.
Jaw Pain and Avoidance
Of course, there’s also the problem that TMJ can result in significant amounts of jaw pain that will make you reluctant to move your jaw for any reason, including speech. Jaw pain can come from sore muscles, an inflamed jaw joint, pinched nerves, or other sources, but the effect is the same.
Instead of speaking in a normal fashion, you will try to speak in ways that help you avoid the pain.
This can distort your speech or keep you from speaking at volume.
TMJ treatment can free your jaw to function normally, allowing you to speak clearly and freely again. However, we have to admit that the treatment orthotic can come with a minor speech impairment of its own. Some people find that they develop a slight lisp when they’re wearing their orthotic.
The good news is that for many people, it’s only necessary to wear the orthotic during the day for a short period of time. After that, you can switch to wearing it at night.
But for some people, it’s important to wear the orthotic at all times. Even then, we can talk about permanent treatment options that maintain the benefits of the orthotic, but don’t interfere with speech.