January 23, 2023 3 min read
A powerful and muscular organ, your tongue has many roles. It helps you manipulate food and contains taste buds that make eating enjoyable. Language as we know it wouldn’t be possible without the tongue. And because the tongue is a strong muscle, some experts believe it has the ability to shape your mouth and, as a consequence, your breathing.
You’ve probably never paid much attention to your tongue posture. In fact, you may not even know there is such a thing as a properly positioned tongue. But if you suffer from sleep-disordered breathing like snoring or sleep apnea, your tongue posture may be to blame. Here is more on whether tongue positioning affects snoring and what to do about it.
Tongue positioning, also known as tongue posture, is a term mostly used in orthotropics and refers to the position of the tongue while the mouth is at rest. According to some orthotropics experts, the position of your tongue is important for overall health. As the strongest muscle in the mouth, it is believed that it can dictate the shape of mouth structures and even the face.
However, it is important to know that there is no consensus on whether this is true and what a properly positioned tongue is. The general view is that the tongue should sit on the roof of the mouth. However, according to a study on 90 subjects published in theDental Press Journal of Orthodontics, there was little difference in tongue position in the different groups and little correlation between tongue posture and the anatomy of the mouth .
Yes, but not in the way you may have been told.
Snoring is the result of upper airway collapse during sleep. There are many reasons this happens, and the tongue falling back and blocking the upper airway is one.
Normally, upper airway dilator muscles keep the tongue properly positioned during sleep. But in sleep apnea sufferers, it seems that reduced muscle tone causes the base of the tongue to block the roof of the mouth and prevent normal breathing .
So, yes, tongue placement can affect snoring. However, when we talk about tongue placement and its role in snoring, what we mean is tongue placement during sleep and not in the resting position. The former has more to do with muscle tone and the shape of the tongue.
Because the tongue can contribute to a blocked airway in those dealing with sleep apnea, you may be wondering whether there is anything you can do to prevent this from happening. And the answer is yes.
In cases where snoring is caused by sleep apnea and where sufferers are unable to use a CPAP machine, doctors recommend mandibular advancement devices (MADs). These oral appliances push the jaw forward, which also repositions the tongue inside the mouth . When paired with tongue exercises to enhance tone, research shows MADs can do wonders.
Another oral appliance that is used to prevent the tongue from causing snoring is the tongue-stabilizing device (TSD) like the Good Morning Snore Solution. These devices are clinically proven to keep the upper airways open during sleep by keeping the tongue comfortably thrust forward.
Fatima F, Fida M. The assessment of resting tongue posture in different sagittal skeletal patterns.Dental Press J Orthod. 2019;24(3):55-63. Published 2019 Aug 1.doi:10.1590/2177-6709.24.3.055-063.oar
Oliven A, Schnall RP, Pillar G, Gavriely N, Odeh M. Sublingual electrical stimulation of the tongue during wakefulness and sleep.Respir Physiol. 2001;127(2-3):217-226.doi:10.1016/s0034-5687(01)00254-7
Wang W, Di C, Mona S, Wang L, Hans M. Tongue Function: An Underrecognized Component in the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea with Mandibular Repositioning Appliance.Can Respir J. 2018;2018:2157974. Published 2018 Nov 6.doi:10.1155/2018/2157974
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