Symptoms of Tongue Dysfunction

The mouth is the gateway to the body

Orofacial myofunctional disorders, or OMDs, produce an extremely wide variety of symptoms in those who suffer from them. Because of the vital role our oral health plays in our ability to breathe, eat, and speak, many OMDs have wide reaching affects. For example, did you know that cavities and gum disease are related to how you breathe and how your tongue and jaw function? Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of OMDs, and some things OMDs can increase the risk of or make worse:

  • Dry lips and mouth
  • Snoring or open mouth while sleeping
  • Numerous airway illnesses, including sinus infections, ear infections, and colds
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
  • TMJ, head/neck, and migraine pain
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Swollen, red gums
  • Continuous development of cavities
  • Clenching and grinding of teeth


  • Excessive tooth wear
  • Crooked teeth
  • Bite Misalignment
  • Improper facial skeletal development
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Acid reflux
  • Hyperactivity in children
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased cancer risk

Learn more about alternative integrative therapies in this video:

Myofunctional therapy helps those with airway and breathing issues

The importance of the tongue

When most of us think of dental problems, the tongue probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, the tongue plays a critical role in jaw development and function. The tongue is the natural orthodontic appliance for feedback and development of the upper and lower jaws.

When the tongue is unable to function correctly due to poor muscle tone or a tethering of the tongue, growth will be poor, and teeth will come in crooked.

In adults, a tethered or dysfunctional tongue can impact the muscles of the floor of the mouth, compressing the hyoid bone, cranial nerves and muscles along with jaw joints. This can result in chronic head and neck pain, and even lead to migraines. An even bigger problem of a dysfunctional, weak or tethered tongue is narrowing or constricting the airway.

Tongue Tie and Airway Issues

A number of orofacial myofunctional disorders such as tongue tie, tongue thrust, and mouth breathing, affect the way we breathe, and prevent our bodies from getting enough oxygen. This can contribute to Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Oxygen and its importance to heart and brain health is too often overlooked. If you are not breathing efficiently, your Central Nervous System may be in fight or flight mode rather than restorative mode, which results in chronic inflammation.

tongue tie and restricted tongue mobility cause many problems, as described by this infographic
This infographic illustrates improper posture of the muscles of the mouth and throat, which is common in cases of OMDs

Proper efficient breathing has a significant impact on sleep. New research is proving that the chronic interruption of sleep cycles also produces the markers for chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to major health issues such as heart disease and cancer. A tongue that has poor muscle tone or a deep restriction will posture down and into the back of throat further aggravating Sleep disordered breathing.

Did you know that clenching and grinding is a manifestation of inefficient breathing?

Research is proving that TMJ pain, clenching, and sleep disordered breathing are connected. It is not normal for children to snore or grind their teeth. Those may be symptoms of improper growth which can have a serious impact on the overall health of your child.

Grinding in adults is a sign that your sleep is being interrupted by inefficient breathing patterns such as UARS (upper airway resistance syndrome) or Sleep Apnea.

Fortunately, there is hope for sufferers of OMDs

Bruxism infographic. Teeth grinding is oftentimes a sign of inefficient breathing

Head over to our page on treatment of myofunctional disorders to learn more about how we treat OMDs.