When you’re staring in the face of a big, juicy burger, you probably aren’t thinking about the way you swallow. Your body will swallow as it always has, no questions asked. However, if you’re swallowing abnormally, you’re causing much unwanted strain on your facial muscles. If that’s the case, even a minor change to the way you swallow can greatly affect your overall health and well being. First, it’s important to understand the difference between normal and abnormal swallowing. Here’s everything you need to know about how to swallow the correct way.
Normal Swallowing: How to Swallow the Correct Way
Normal swallowing begins when the lips close together to form a seal. After chewing, the teeth meet together as the food moves toward the back of the throat. The tip of the tongue touches the top front of the upper palate while the lower jaw makes a slight motion upward. The nasal cavity seals when the soft palate rises to prevent food or fluid from coming out of the nose. With a very minimal compression of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint,) the throat opens up and the contents of the mouth proceed into the esophagus without any spillage in the trachea tube.
Abnormal or Reverse Swallowing
In abnormal swallowing (also called reverse swallowing), the tongue is in an improper position, which causes strain and stress on the jaw, face, head and neck. In an abnormal swallow, the tip of the tongue extends too far forward and down (a tongue thrust), which creates a space between the teeth and lips. The lower jaw moves backwards, which causes the head and neck to move in a forward motion to force the food back to the back of the throat. If the food does not go back far enough, it can leak into the trachea and cause frequent choking or aspirations.
Anormal swallowing patterns and tongue thrusting are usually associated with a history of thumb sucking or extended pacifier and bottle use. The reason is that prolonged use can cause an open bite. When a child has an open bite, they will begin to stick their tongue forward to seal the gap in teeth and lips in order to swallow. Over time, the tongue thrust becomes a habit, which can lead to problems speaking, chewing, breathing and more.
Signs and Symptoms of Abnormal Swallowing
Abnormal swallowing is typically associated with tongue thrusting, an open bite, a shallow palate, and an underdevelopment of the bones in the upper jaw. Most patients also have a long and narrow jaw and face, with a head-forward posture. There are also some common signs that those who swallow abnormally show, including:
- Lips stay open when swallowing.
- The tongue sticks out when swallowing
- Frequent cracked or chapped lips
- Problems breastfeeding
- Protruding teeth or open bite
- Slow and/or messy eating
- A speech impediment, such as a lisp
- Mouth breathing
- Loud eating and chewing
- Neck and shoulder tension
- Facial and jaw pain
Catching abnormal swallowing in the early stages is always best, as it allows time to correct the position, retrain the muscles, and achieve a normal tongue position.
How Abnormal Swallowing Affects Development
Addressing improper swallowing patterns in older children and adults can be tricky. However, myofunctional therapy is an individualized program provided by a certified medical professional. The therapy is designed to retrain your orofacial muscles to improve function and strength. Using a series of exercises prescribed to suit your specific needs, the therapy can be used to improve your tongue’s resting position. As a result, you can normalize tongue and lip posturing, improve breathing, and reduce symptoms of OMD.
Schedule An Appointment to Learn How to Swallow the Correct Way
Schedule an appointment to meet with our myofunctional therapist to inspect your unique situation and to retrain the tongue to rest in its optimal position. Bloom Center for Sleep and Airway Health also works with chiropractors, dentists, and other health professionals to relieve the tension and stress put on the body from the continued forward head posture. Start on your road to better health and book a consultation today!
Want to learn more? Download our Parent’s Guide to a Healthy Child here.