Did you grow up hearing that the ability to roll your tongue was a genetic trait passed down to you?
The ability to roll your tongue has been a standard example in high school biology classes across the country since 1940 when talking about genetics. The theory, posited by geneticist Alfred Sturtevant, was that those with the ability to roll their tongues were able to do so because of a dominant trait passed down from their parents.
However, the theory was debunked a little over a decade later by a researcher named Phillip Matlock in 1952. Matlock tested the theory among more than 30 sets of twins, of which one had the ability to roll their tongue and the other didn’t.
Despite being debunked, Sturtevant’s theory about tongue rolling and genetics is often still used as a way some teachers teach students about genetic traits.
What Really Impacts the Tongue
Can you curl or roll your tongue? Or do you find that your tongue’s ability to move is restricted? Try this: Stick it out as far as it will go. Is it far out or does it seem to be held back. Can you easily touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue? Where does your tongue rest when your mouth is closed?
We’re going to wager that you almost never think about these things, or even think about your tongue at all unless you happen to bite it or maybe when you’re brushing it as part of your regular twice-a-day brushing routine <cough, cough, you are doing that, right?>. But did you know that your tongue has a very important role for your body?
Not only does your tongue impact how you chew and swallow, but it also affects how you use your facial muscles, how you talk, and even how you breathe and how your face develops.
Proper Tongue Posture
Proper tongue posture is when your tongue rests gently on the roof of the mouth, away from your teeth. When your tongue is at rest, your lips should be closed and your teeth slightly parted. If your tongue rests on the bottom of your mouth or against your teeth, your tongue positioning is improper. These positions can contribute to shifted or crowded teeth, tooth grinding, jaw pain and facial growth issues, as well as food aversions.
Poor tongue posture can also lead to other problems including:
- speech impediments
- snoring and obstructive sleep apnea
- tooth grinding
- tongue thrust
- mouth breathing
- poor oral hygiene
- neck pain
- problems with facial esthetics or facial appearance
These things are known as orofacial myofunctional disorders, but they can be overcome with treatment.
Causes of Oral Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) and Poor Tongue Posture
There are many causes of oral myofunctional disorders (OMD) like poor tongue postures and tongue- and lip-ties. Many individuals experience OMDs as a result of physiological disorders and interrupted jaw growth issues.
Some of them may have no obvious cause while others may be caused by an underlying medical condition like TMJ (jaw) disorder.
In addition, there are several environmental factors that can affect the development of orofacial myofunctional disorders. For instance, prolonged thumb-sucking habits during childhood can cause permanent damage to the soft tissues around the mouth. This could eventually lead to speech difficulties and difficulty chewing. Other common causes include trauma, infection, inflammation, injury, surgery, dental procedures, medications, allergies, stress, anxiety, depression and certain diseases.
Treatment Options for Oral Myofunctional Disorder
The most effective treatments for OMDs involve both behavioral modification and physical therapies. The first step in treating any type of OMD involves educating patients regarding their problem so they understand what’s causing it. Once the patient understands why he or she experiences symptoms, then appropriate behavior modifications can begin.
In cases where the root cause cannot be identified, other methods must be employed. Myofunctional therapy exercises and techniques help improve muscle tone and coordination and benefit orofacial functions such as eating, speaking and chewing.
How to Fix Poor Tongue Posture
If you have trouble keeping your tongue off the floor of your mouth, you may be a candidate for myofunctional therapy. Myofunctional therapy consists of a series of exercises that can help you retrain your tongue and overcome the bad habits caused by poor tongue positioning.
These exercises are done under the management of a dentist or myofunctional therapist. They require daily practice for several weeks or months to help you overcome the oral myofunctional disorders that we’ve mentioned and retrain your orofacial muscles and tongue muscle.
Myofunctional therapy benefits Include:
- improved speech
- reduced snoring and sleep apnea symptoms
- decreased jaw tension
- increased saliva production
- lessened muscle spasms
- improved oral health
- decrease in obstructive sleep apnea symptoms
Additionally, some patients may also benefit from additional therapies, such as speech therapy, breathing exercises and food therapy after their myofunctional therapy. You may also need orthodontic treatment and treatments to address any oral hygiene issues.
Learn more about myofunctional disorders and how myofunctional therapy can help you. Call us now for more information or to schedule a consultation.