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A recent discussion on social media, YouTube and articles on topic of tongue posture has probably got you thinking, more confused and with lots of questions that need answers. How does tongue placement positively or negatively affect your facial structure? Read on to find out more about tongue posture.
What Is Tongue Posture, and why is it important?
Tongue posture refers to subconscious placement and resting of your tongue in your mouth.
While it’s something that most people unconsciously ignore, studies show that it plays a vital role in your facial architecture. Proper tongue posture is so important such that it has led to the “invention” of a new form of corrective therapy known as mewing by Dr. Mike Mew of Orthodontic Health. Your tongue’s default resting position when asleep, awake, chewing, swallowing and talking can affect the appearance of your jawline.
Proper tongue positioning involves pressing the tongue to the roof of the mouth instead of resting it on the mouth’s floor.
Pressing your tongue on your mouth’s roof doesn’t mean you’re doing it right. There are right and wrong ways of doing this. The wrong way involves pressing the tip of your tongue into the roof while the right way consists in pressing the whole tongue on to the roof of your mouth. You’ll need to place the anterior and the posterior of your tongue into the maxilla.
Is it true that tongue posture can affect cheekbones and facial structure?
While tongue posture may have an impact on the facial structure and cheekbones, it’s more of a preventive measure.
How does this happen?
The narrowing of the palate, which is caused by improper tongue posture can result in loss of support for your cheekbones and jaws. As a result your cheekbones and chin will become less prominent over time.
However, it’s important to note that there’s no conclusive research as to whether tongue posture can affect your facial structure as an adult. Some medical practitioners may recommend mewing as a way of conditioning your brain to maintain proper tongue posture in an attempt to create a defined jawline. There are no scientific researches that support this practice.
Signs of Improper Tongue Positioning
Regardless of whether tongue placement has any impact on your facial shape, there’s scientific evidence that improper tongue positioning does result in a whole new list of problems. Below are some signs and symptoms of incorrect tongue posture.
- Snoring and sleep apnea: your palate is connected to the sinuses. Improper tongue positioning may result in the narrowing of the palate and sinuses resulting in complications in your breathing.
- Improper swallowing: when swallowing, your tongue is supposed to move up and back in a waveform to move food towards the throat and not forward and down (this is referred as tongue thrusting). Tongue thrusting can affect the shape of your teeth and jawline.
- Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction occurs when the jaws are slightly off of alignment resulting in the inflammation and pain at the jaw hinge.
- Vision problems: because your palate is connected to the sinuses, tongue positioning can affect how your eyes rest in their sockets. If the palate changes shape due to lousy tongue positioning, your eyes won’t be appropriately positioned.
Other signs and symptoms of improper tongue positioning include:
- Recessed chin
- Crowded teeth
- Dysfunctional bite
- Neck and shoulder pain and tension
- Tooth decay
Benefits of correct tongue positioning
Proper tongue positioning plays a vital role in facial growth and development. Not only does it impact your smile, but can also cause problems with chewing and speech. Throughout your life, it’s important to position your tongue on the roof of the mouth day or night, except when eating or talking.
Speech and function are majorly affected by front teeth position. For example, certain letters of the alphabets require proper alignment of the front teeth. In addition, biting thin foods can be a struggle when the front teeth are not well aligned. Poor tongue posture can result in back cross-bite which can lead to early wear on the molar teeth, resulting in unbalanced bite force and future gum loss in these areas. Correct tongue positioning helps prevent all these problems now and in the future. (Source)
Recommended Tongue Positioning Exercises
Below are three recommended tongue exercises that you should take advantage of to get full benefits.
- The first exercise is intended to help you get an idea of the shape of your mouth and where your tongue should be. Feel the back of your front teeth with the tip of your tongue, and gently slide it to the flat area behind your teeth. You’ll realize that your mouth’s roof slopes off from the teeth into the cavity of your palate just after the ridged area behind the teeth- the Spot. Your tongue should rest on the ridged area just before the slope.
- The second exercise will help you determine where the posterior part of your tongue should rest. Make a big grin and raise your eyebrows. Try swallowing while clenching your teeth. This exercise may be difficult, but if you do it successfully, you’ll feel the back of your tongue, touch the roof of your mouth. This is where your language should rest.
For the best result, try these two exercises daily for several weeks. You’ll notice that you’ll be able to do it unconsciously.
Factors to consider when correcting oral posture
Now that you’re aware of the impacts of poor tongue placement on your jawline appearance and oral health, it’s essential always to consider the following factors into account when practicing proper positioning.
- Awareness: it’s important to get a better sense of tongue placement throughout the day. Condition your mind to always “confirm” where your tongue is situated. It might sound weird, but if you find it hard, you can set clock alarms at different intervals, be it 30 minutes or 1 hour.
- While monitoring tongue positioning is important, always monitor your breathing as well. Is your mouth frequently open? If so, you’re probably mouth breathing, and this is a sign of bad tongue posture.
- Keep an eye on other symptoms associated with poor tongue positioning like teeth grinding. If such symptoms manifest, you’re probably not doing it well.
Conditions That Make Correct Tongue Positioning Impossible
While poor tongue posture can be as a result of our tongue laziness, a health tongue positioning can be made impossible by two major structural limitations.
a) Tongue Tie
Tongue-tie is a genetic condition that occurs when the lingual frenum is too close to the tongue tip thus restricting tongue’s range of motion. In his short write-up, Tongue Tie and Beyond, Buteyko Clinic founder, Dr. James Bronson, DDS states that the proper term for tongue-tie is Tethered Oral Tissues because most people interpret tongue-tie as a wholly fixated tongue.
This is why refined medical practitioners like Dr. Bronson and Dr. Leonard Kundel, DMD classify the condition as a posterior tongue tie since it only truly restricts the center and the back of the tongue. Dr. Bronson notes that the condition is 4% more common in males than in females.
Because proper tongue posture requires both the tip and the back of the tongue to press against the roof of your mouth- the Spot- tongue-tie can make this whole process impossible.
b) Undeveloped Jaws
Another structural limitation that prevents correct tongue posture is a mouth that’s too small for the tongue. Underdeveloped jaws are caused by lack of proper tongue posture during infancy.
Undeveloped jaws mean that the maxilla isn’t wide enough and hasn’t grown forward enough; hence, there’s no sufficient space in the mouth for the tongue to be positioned appropriately. Consider this scenario, like having shoes too small for your feet.
While undersized jaws will allow you to properly position the tip of your tongue, pressing the back, center, and the tip of your tongue all together in the palate becomes impossible. On the other hand, an undersized palate won’t accommodate your entire tongue. (Source)
Final thoughts on Proper Tongue Posture
Correct tongue placement not only allows for a well-defined jawline but also helps maintain a broader palate. While there’s little scientific evidence that adults can get a broad palate or get a slimmer face through proper tongue positioning, that doesn’t mean the whole idea of tongue positioning isn’t beneficial.
Proper tongue positioning will also help avoid other health problems, including tongue thrust, cross biting, poor breathing habits, and misaligned teeth. However, if you’re concerned about your tongue posture, speak with your doctor for professional medical advice.
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