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Problems with Mouth Breathing

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

In all my years of dentistry, I never realized how important our tongue really is. I took my tongue for granted. Then I enrolled in a myofunctional therapy course at a conference I was attending and learned that my tongue should rest on the top (roof) of my mouth. Yes, there is such a thing as a “resting tongue posture” – and it’s important!

In a perfect mouth, the lips are closed and the tongue presses up toward the roof of the mouth at all times except when chewing, talking, coughing or sneezing. When the tongue rests on the top of your mouth, it provides support for the bones of your skull. Additionally, this tongue position encourages nasal breathing.

Your mouth is not your nose! When your brain believes your mouth is your nose there’s a problem. Think about it. Your mouth is for chewing food, but now you’re asking it to chew and breathe. This gets the tongue moving in all different directions, trying to figure out how to manage this extra work. Tired tongues rest on the floor or in the middle of the mouth. Over time, this becomes a habit as we continue to use our mouths, rather than our noses, to breathe.

The mouth has muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons, just like the rest of the body. When the tongue rests anywhere aside from the roof of the mouth, the chin drops down and the head moves forward. Yes - the tongue drives the position of the head into a forward posture. The constant forward pull of the head and neck muscles has the potential to change bone structure over time.

You can see then, how mouth-breathing habits affect facial growth and development. It’s common for people who breathe predominantly through their mouths to have longer, narrower face shapes, recessed chins and crowded teeth.

The tongue is nature’s tool for widening and shaping the roof of our mouth: the constant pressure of the tongue causes the bones of the maxilla (bones at the top of the mouth) to expand. If the tongue lies on the floor or in the middle of your mouth, the roof of your mouth will not expand.

A high narrow palate (roof of the mouth) limits the space you have in your nose and sinuses. A smaller space makes it more difficult to breathe, which often leads to snoring, sleep apnea symptoms, teeth grinding, tooth decay and neck and shoulder tension. When the palate is wider, the nasal passages open up, and it’s much easier to breathe.

So, yes, it’s important to control the resting position of your tongue.

To my dental friends and colleagues, teach your patients the correct resting tongue posture and how important it is to their oral and overall health.

Parents, observe your children for mouth breathing. Awareness of this habit will help with the natural forward growth of their jaws, improve their health and promote confidence and good posture.

If you are struggling with a mouth breathing habit go to the Contact Page of my website to request an informational phone call. I'm here to help!

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