Improper tongue posture and mouth breathing can lead to incorrect muscle memory of the lips, face, tongue and throat. A program of therapeutic exercises that targets these muscles can help to establish correct coordination and proper patterning. Muscles of the oropharynx are also strengthened in the process.
Breathing through our nose promotes ideal oral posture, including the proper growth and development of our jaws, teeth, and airway. When our tongue rests against our palate or the roof of the mouth, with the tip sitting just behind our front top teeth on the "spot" where you say the letter "N", it creates outward forces on our upper dental arch. When we breathe through our nose, this force is balanced by inward forces of the cheeks and closed lips. This creates a broad U-shaped palate, like the shape of our tongue, along with a healthy strong jaw, balanced cervical posture, and a wide beautiful smile. The roof of the mouth is also the base of the sinuses...So when the palate is widened naturally with the tongue, our nasal passages are opened up and we can breathe better. Lips closed and tongue up is the foundation for proper facial development and a good airway!
Ideal Oral Posture
If the tongue adopts a low position in the mouth, the pressure of the cheeks causes the palate to collapse resulting in a crowded, vaulted shape.
Tongue against the palate enhances our ability to breathe through our nose, & optimizes airway dimensions which is crucial for restorative sleep.
Ideal oral posture with the tongue against the roof of the mouth allows for the development of healthy bite, and results in a wide straight smile.
Mouth breathing has unfortunately become more prevalent in our society. Maladaptive habits such as bottle feeding or extended pacifier use, eating highly processed foods, daily stress, nasal allergies, and exposure to environmental pollutants, have caused us to develop smaller jaws and longer faces. Having a restricted airway due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a deviated septum, or a restricted lingual frenum (tongue-tie) can also cause us to mouth breathe. With nasal disuse, our noses become blocked even further, so the body compensates by positioning the head forward to ensure our airway is open and we can get enough oxygen. When breathe through our mouth, the tongue adopts a low-resting posture, and the muscles in our face and throat become weakened. This can impact the quality of our sleep and puts us at risk for developing sleep disordered breathing, such as snoring and sleep apnea. Proper tongue rest position is also crucial in providing stability to the jaw and enables our facial muscles to relax. Without a proper tongue posture, our jaw muscles begin to work harder causing the orofacial muscles to become fatigued and imbalanced potentially leading to jaw pain, neck pain, muscle soreness and headaches. Over time, this adapted muscle memory often leads to dysfunctional patterns in chewing, swallowing, occlusion, and breathing— known as Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD). Symptoms of mouth breathing and orofacial imbalances include dry mouth, chest breathing, a receding chin, dental problems, snoring, bad breath, rhinitis, grinding or clenching of the teeth, and excessive fatigue.
Orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) works based on a principle called neuroplasticity. We can retrain the muscles in our face, tongue and throat by performing specific therapeutic mouth exercises, thus creating new neural connections in our brain. As we stop using specific muscles, the synapses for these connections become weakened. Neuromuscular re-education involves repetition, and requires the right intensity and frequency to elicit change in our brains. As newly coordinated facial muscle patterns develop, orofacial functions are also restored. Treatment time can vary, but therapy is usually delivered over the course of several months to one year since time is needed to develop permanent neural connections in the brain. Benefits of therapy may include better breathing, enhanced sleep quality, diminished facial or jaw pain, and improved swallowing & digestion.
Goals of Therapy