Oral Surgery/Tongue


QUESTION: Hi dr Joel,
How are you? It's been a while since I've forgotten about tongue. It actually cleared up for a few months but now it seems to have returned a bit. I think it's because I have tmj on left side and there isn't much room in my mouth for tongue to rest so it presses against my lower teeth and perhaps those are the indentations that I'm seeing. Can you take a look and tell me if that seems right? Looks like I'm doing it myself unconsciously. Thanks.

ANSWER: Steve - Thank you for asking--I'm doing fine.  

As far as the tongue, it looks like its be "chomped" on.  Those indentations could be from just pressure of the teeth or it could be that doing chewing the tongue gets pushed and or mildly traumatized.  With TMJ problems the bite is usually not completely vertical and the jaw swings a little.  That can cause the changes in your tongue.

Not dangerous and fairly common with TMJ patients.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

After eating
After eating  
Not eating
Not eating  
QUESTION: Thanks for response. The funny thing is the other night I was in like a twilight sleep and caught myself biting tongue like one hard bite during sleep. I doubt it could have caused that much trauma but here's what it looks like now. First is normal and second is after eating. They are in different lighting so you can see. Can't figure out when I'm doing this to it but it got a lot better over past few months but recently returned. Must be stress.

ANSWER: Steve -  I, of course, cannot be sure, but stress is probably the most common cause of the trauma your tongue sustained.  Just think of this.  Every time we are in a stressful situation, whether awake or sleeping, the most common thing we do is to clench our teeth and grind.  So whatever might be stressing you could produce the trauma your tongue sustained.

My wife is a psychotherapist and we have spoken of this many times over the years of the physical problems that can be produced by stress (awake or during sleep).  So whatever causes you stress you need to address.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: It's gotta be an unconscious thing or else I would know when it happens. But the pictures represent trauma to you? Have you ever seen a tongue this way before ?

Steve - the appearance is common to traumatic injuries that affect the mouth.  How they occur varies from intentional to subconscious or without any knowledge.  You just need to take care of it to allow the area to heal.  You also might benefit from seeing a psychotherapist.  These medical personal do not necessarily work only on those with psychological problems, but also with those who have subconcious forces that can produce physical changes.

So, I am not saying you are crazy or have psychological problems, but you should see a psychotherapist to help direct your subconcious forces to stop attacking yourself.

I wish you well and find a psychotherapist who is knowledgeable about helping you.

Oral Surgery

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Joel S. Teig, DMD, Diplomate ABOMS, retired


I am a board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon available to answer questions related to tooth extractions, implant insertion, facial recontruction, facial and oral tumor removal, TMJ dysfunction and various successful treatments, including surgery if all else fails, and occlusal discrepancy requiring orthognathic or jaw surgery.


Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon practicing for over 20 years. Assistant Clincal Professor at State University School of Dentistry.

American Dental Association, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

BA- University of Connecticut DMD-University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine Oral and Maxillofacial Surgical Residency - Roosevelt Hospital, NYC

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.