How Your Tongue Plays a Role in Your Health
As a General Practitioner, I have experience in helping to reverse engineer tons of health conditions.
At least, that’s how I think of things - I’m reverse engineering the steps that got my patients to their current state of dishealth and fixing root causes.
Surprisingly, one of the things that may be leading to a ton of people’s low energy levels, poor physical fitness, and general inability to sleep well has more to do with their tongue than it has to do with diet, hormones, or the like.
I believe we take our tongues for granted.
We don’t pay it much mind (unless we accidentally bite it) and yet our tongues actually play a pivotal role in our health.
How so you may wonder?
Well, it goes like this. Your tongue is a muscle, a pretty powerful one at that.
It’s necessary for speech, digestion, and breathing, and if it’s not doing what it's supposed to be doing, it could interfere with normal facial growth and get in the way of your sleep cycles.
Recent investigations into tongue posture have led professionals to conclude that if your tongue doesn’t sit correctly in your mouth, both during the day and at night, it can severely reduce the quality of your life.
I’ll explain how and then show you ways to improve your tongue posture if you’re interested.
Why Tongue Posture Is So Important To Health
Have you ever heard someone insult another person by calling them a “mouth-breather?”
The insult is meant to insinuate that a person who breathes heavily through their mouth is as stupid as a caveman.
What’s interesting is the notion that mouth-breathing is related to lower intelligence may have some scientific backing.
When we breathe through our nose, as opposed to through the mouth alone, the body synthesizes nitric oxide (which you may remember is a vasodilator), and the downstream effect is that you have better blood pressure as a result.
Mouth breathing may impair nitric oxide synthesis which in turn affects cardiovascular health which may then lead to stunted brain function (hence why people with low intelligence are sometimes called mouth breathers.
What’s interesting to note is the reason that some people breathe through their nose more so than their mouth has more to do with how they’re able to control their tongues.
If a person’s tongue is restricted in its ability to move, then it can limit nasal breathing and promote mouth breathing instead.
There can be multiple causal factors limiting the movement of the tongue.
As Higher Intensity Health notes, a few reasons could be “The maxilla bone may not project forward could be because the tongue does not rest in the correct position, possibly from a tongue tie, from nutrient deficiencies or lack of use of mastication muscles during crucial times of growth.”
If you’re a parent of a child under 15 it’s possible you’ve heard a pediatrician, or an oral surgeon reference tongue ties when it comes to your child’s inability to breast/bottle feed well as a tongue tie can interfere with their ability to form an adequate latch.
The theory is that should that tongue tie never be resolved, the restriction on tongue movement could then interfere with health development well into adulthood.
Additionally, if you don’t have a well-toned tongue posture it could cause hyper-laxative throat dilator muscles.
When that happens your throat muscles don’t have enough strength to keep your airways open all the way which can impede your ability to breathe throughout the night and induce the onset of sleep apnea (a condition where a person will stop breathing through the night for seconds to minutes at a time).
Improper tongue posture can also lead to facial deformities, especially severely restricted tongue movement. In this video, you can see how mouth breathing and poor tongue posture can create undesirable changes in the structure of a person's face. Unfortunately, procedures like orthodontics can be the root cause of facial deformities.
So with all this talk of “poor tongue posture” you may be wondering what the correct posture of your tongue should be, right?
What Is Proper Tongue Posture?
If you were to have perfect tongue posture then your tongue would do the following:
At rest, (i.e. when your mouth is closed and you’re breathing through your nose), your tongue would touch the roof of the mouth and sit right behind your front teeth. At rest, this should feel natural, and comfortable. If you have to force your tongue into this position and it results in being uncomfortable then there’s a good chance you suffer from poor tongue posture.
Ideally, the tip of your tongue would never hang out on the bottom of your mouth like a dog laying lazily on the floor.
During speech, the tongue also has a “correct” posture and much of that posture has to do with the proper pronunciation of sounds. If you have any kind of speech impediment or difficulty in pronouncing words, there’s a good chance your tongue posture is compromised.
As DoctosOnHealth.com writes: “For example, when we make the sound “a”, the tongue ideally should be placed lower than its neutral position. But when we make sounds like “I”, “u”, “g” then the position of the tongue should be above the neutral position. The tongue goes back inside the mouth when we make the sound “o”. So depending upon the sound we make, the tongue changes its posture, and this is normal.”
And of course, the other time the posture of our tongue is important is when we eat. When we swallow, the tongue should also be held against the roof of our mouth. If you thrust your tongue forward (a habit some children with restricted tongue movement end up developing) it’s a sign of postural issues and this can actually be a cause of dental and orofacial problems.
On Healthline Dr. Ron Baise sums it up like this: “‘ The potential benefits of good tongue posture include a likelihood to have better aligned teeth as poor tongue posture can put your tongue in the way of growing teeth,’” [Dr. Ron} Baise says. “‘This can negatively affect the way they grow by blocking the space that they grow into.’”
“Plus, improper tongue posture can lead to a narrower palate over time. Studies suggest that simply widening the palate can have a positive effect on the upper airway, especially in children and young adults, improved tongue posture, and even reduced nasal obstruction in children with sleep apnea.”
If you want to improve your tongue posture, it’s easy to start practicing at home. Try to be more aware of where your tongue is resting throughout the day, and practice engaging in proper tongue posture.
Yes, You Can Fix Tongue Posture and Reclaim Your Health
The good news is just because a person has dealt with poor tongue posture most of their lives, doesn’t mean it’s a life sentence for bad posture (and poor health outcomes) for the rest of their lives.
Thankfully there are simple exercises you can do to help improve tongue tone (and minor corrective surgeries too).
Here’s a simple exercise for learning proper tongue posture:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth in the hard palate above your upper front teeth.
- Next, use suction and pull the rest of the tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, which is a hard palate.
- Allow your mouth to close comfortably.
- Hold the tongue in that position.
- Breathe normally without any discomfort.
You can do this all day and there’s no risk of it harming you.
Beyond that there are more advanced therapies you can attempt, again, they are not dangerous.
These include a series of tongue workouts (usually administered by an orofacial therapist) that can help rehabilitate your tongue and get it strong enough to be in the correct position all the time.
In rare cases, minor oral surgeries, or orthodontics can be used to help expand the palate or release the tongue.