The Role of the Tongue

Our tongues are in motion a lot during the day, helping us talk, chew, and swallow, but our tongues play a much bigger role than most of us are aware of.  Our tongues have an influence on the position of our teeth,  how we breathe and sleep too.  

The tongue must be functioning properly or else it can disrupt our airways.  This is one reason why it’s important for the tongue to have a full range of motion.  At night, the tongue should maintain a particular position in your mouth to help you sleep.  There’s actually a huge connection between the tongue and the other systems in our body.

About 50% of Americans have something called improper tongue posture or positioning. Yep another fun fact, there is a correct place to rest your tongue. Where exactly should the tongue rest? 

Where is your Tongue?

Right now as you are listening ?

The bottom of your mouth? The top? Maybe floating somewhere in between the teeth.

What is Tongue Positioning?

Tongue positioning and tongue posture are interchangeable terms used to describe the positioning of our tongues while at rest. Even though this may sound silly, there is such a thing as good tongue positioning and bad tongue positioning, and the truth is, bad tongue positioning can affect oral health as well as other parts of the body. 

The muscles throughout your body form a delicate network. When one muscle is not functioning as it should, it can adversely affect the others as well as the nearby structures. The tongue is no exception to this rule. 

Although it is a relatively small muscle, it is a strong muscle that can cause a range of problems if it does not rest in the proper position. Today we are going to discuss how your tongue should rest, how you can identify signs of an improper tongue resting position, and what you can do to correct problems with tongue positioning.

Have you ever heard  Dem Bones, a Classic Children’s Song?

The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone,

The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone,

The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone,

Have you ever heard that your tongue is connected to your toes?

It’s true!

Your body is an intricate network of bones, organs, joints and tissues, and every part is connected in some way. Your tongue is actually connected to your toes through an intricate network of connective tissue known as fascia.

The fascia is a very thin band of connective tissue that covers our muscles, offers protection to these structures, and helps to keep nerves and blood vessels in place.

Your body is also designed to work perfectly when everything is in its proper place, like a well-oiled machine. But, like with any machine, if one part is out of place, there can be severe consequences.

If you pull a muscle in your leg, you may feel it in your back or foot. Similarly, when your tongue is out of its intended place, everything below it, all the way down to your toes, can be affected.

The Tongue-to-Toe Connection

Does your tongue have a proper place, though? Turns out, yes. There is such a thing as proper tongue posture.

Known commonly was oral rest posture, the ideal position for your tongue is against the roof of your mouth. Your tongue should also not touch the back of your upper front teeth, and your teeth should be slightly apart.

Your lips should close over your teeth without stretching or straining, too. 

Proper Tongue Positioning

When your mouth is at rest, your tongue should be against the roof of your mouth, but it should not be pressing against any of your teeth. Your teeth should be slightly apart, and your lips should be closed. Deviations from this positioning can contribute to problems like jaw and neck pain, shifting teeth, breathing difficulties, sleep issues and more.

Is Your Tongue in the Proper Place?

The above description should give you a fair idea of whether your tongue is in the right place. However, if you still aren’t sure, you can evaluate yourself for the following signs and symptoms, all of which indicate a possible problem with your tongue’s resting position.

  • Poor posture
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Teeth grinding
  • Snoring
  • Waking up tired
  • Dark circles under your eyes
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (periods of not breathing during sleep due to tissues blocking the upper airway)
  • Habitual mouth breathing
  • An elongated facial shape
  • Misaligned teeth (for example, if your tongue rests too far forward, it can press against the front teeth and cause a gap between them)
  • Pain in your jaw joint

Correcting Improper Tongue Positioning

  • Awareness is key; try to get a better sense of your oral posture throughout the day. Where is your tongue resting? Is it pressing against your front teeth or lying passively on the floor of your mouth?
  • While monitoring your tongue’s position, also take note of your breathing. Are your lips frequently open? If so, you’re probably breathing through your mouth, and this is often a sign of poor tongue posture.
  • Remember to keep an eye out for any other symptoms like teeth grinding,snoring, which potentially causes headaches, neck pain, and sleep issues.

If your tongue is resting in an improper position, you may not be able to correct the issue on your own. Sheree will be pleased to help you. She can evaluate your oral health and your resting tongue position and then recommend an appropriate course of action. She might advise that you undergo:

  • Orthodontic treatment. There are many different appliances that may be able to correct the positioning of your jaw and teeth, thereby helping your tongue to rest in the correct place.
  • A frenectomy. In some cases, improper tongue positioning is caused by tongue tie, a condition that limits the tongue’s range of motion. A frenectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that frees up the tongue. It is recommended you do exercises before and after the release so your tongue does not reattach and you have full range of motion. We will talk more about this next week.
  • Myofunctional therapy. A myofunctional therapist can introduce you to exercises that will train your tongue to rest in the right position.

How to Fix Bad Tongue Positioning

The good news is you can work to improve your resting tongue positioning by first becoming more aware of where your tongue falls at rest. If you notice that your tongue is falling to the bottom of the mouth or is pushing up against your teeth, focus on consciously changing its position. Keep in mind, permanently changing your tongue positioning can take time and practice, so be patient. 

Is your tongue in the right place? If you suspect that it is not or have any concerns, we are ready to help you correct the problem and enjoy improved oral and overall health.

Now that you know what the correct tongue resting posture is. 

Where your tongue should be resting and what you can do if it is not in the proper position.

Next week we are going to talk about what happens when your tongue is not functioning how it was meant to and the havoc it wreaks on your teeth and the rest of your body. As well as what to look for and how to correct it.

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