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Does Poor Posture Start in the Mouth?

Forward neck postures are often thought to be caused by mobile phone use. But did you know your tongue could be the reason for your poor head posture and neck pain? 

Basically, it all comes down to the importance of the oral cavity and the craniofacial region to your posture. Your tongue should fill the space between the upper teeth and the lower lip. When it does not, it can affect the position of your head relative to the cervical spine and the thoracic spine.

A low resting position of the tongue can impact the jaw and can also cause headaches, jaw pain and tension in the muscles of mastication (the muscles you use to chew!). 

If you have a tongue tie, it could be making things worse by preventing the tongue from resting correctly.

Tongue ties can cause muscles to compensate for the lack of proper positioning of the tongue. This can lead to neck and back pain, which can then worsen a forward head position. Ties can also influence the fascia of the body’s deep front line, your body’s core muscles that run from the tongue to the soles of the feet, which can also affect posture and movement.

So the position of the tongue is critical. If you or anyone in your family has a low resting tongue posture or tongue tie, it’s definitely worth getting assessed by a myofunctional therapist or dentist.  

Signs of Poor Tongue Posture in Adults

First, let’s talk about proper oral resting posture. What is it?

When your mouth is at rest, i.e. not chewing or speaking, your tongue should be against the roof of your mouth. It should not be pressing against any of your teeth. Your teeth should also be slightly apart, and your lips should be closed.

This is called the resting position. The resting position is important because, when we speak, our tongues move up and down. So if they’re too far away from the roof of the mouth, they won’t be able to do their job properly. They’ll just hang there like an anchor instead of moving with the words that we want them to say.

The next thing to look out for is what happens when we speak. We tend to open our mouths wide as we speak. That means that the tongue will fall backward toward the floor of the mouth. And since the tongue is attached to the bottom of the mouth, it pulls on the soft tissues around the base of the tongue. These include the hyoid bone, the thyroid cartilage and the larynx. All these structures are connected to each other by ligaments and muscles. So when the tongue falls backward, it pulls on those structures and causes them to stretch.

What Can Cause Poor Oral Resting Posture? 

There are many different causes for improper oral resting posture, but one of the most common ones is related to airway issues. If you’re having trouble sleeping because of nasal congestion, an enlarged tonsil or a deviated septal wall, then you may be choosing to sleep with your head tilted back instead of lying flat.

A structural abnormality such as a tongue or lip tie can also cause improper oral posture. If the tissues connecting your tongue to the bottom of your mouth are too tight, they can restrict the range of movement of your tongue, causing your tongue to rest lower on the bottom of your mouth rather than on the top. As children grow and develop, the slight pressure of their tongues against the hard palates determine the shapes of their palates. When the tongue rests lower in the mouth, it can disturb proper growth of the hard palates.

Other common causes for improper oral rest posture include bad oral habits such as prolonged nipple/pacifier use, fingernail or toe chewing, and lip biting. When these habits occur frequently enough, they disrupt normal development, causing permanent structural alterations in the roof of the oral cavity and positioning of teeth.

Signs of Tongue Ties in Adults

If you have a tongue tie, you might notice some of these signs:

  • A small lump under the chin
  • Difficulty swallowing food
  • Drooling
  • Frequent colds
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Painful gums
  • Mouth sores
  • Toothaches
  • Difficulty pronouncing certain sounds
  • Speech impediments

Consequences of Poor Oral Resting Posture

Poor oral resting posture has several consequences. These include:

  • Difficulties swallowing food
  • Problems with speech
  • Headache
  • Neck pain
  • Throat pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Stomachaches
  • Heartburn
  • Sleep apnea/sleep-disordered breathing
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression

Treatment Options for Tongue Ties in Adults

Tongue ties are usually treated during infancy. However, if you have developed poor oral resting posture in adulthood, you should seek treatment immediately. Your dentist can perform a simple procedure known as a frenotomy. This involves cutting through the tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth so that the tongue can return to its proper resting place. It’s a quick and easy procedure that takes just a few minutes and is performed with a laser. 

This procedure can help improve your tongue’s range of motion. The tongue tie release procedure can also help to improve breathing and reduce sleep apnea symptoms and posture problems. 

Adults with tongue ties also benefit from myofunctional therapy, a type of physical therapy that focuses on improving muscle tone and function. Myofunctional therapy helps strengthen muscles around the jaw, neck and shoulders, thereby reducing tension and stress.