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How to Prevent and Maintain your Dental Alignment to Avoid Teeth Shifting

Updated: Aug 1

Your lips are your natural braces and your tongue is the retainer


Though you can’t see it happening, your airway and tongue’s rest position from the time you are born is one of the most important factors. If your tongue is resting down and forward, many times the palate will narrow causing crowding of the teeth, open bites, overbites, crossbites, or underbites. Low lying resting posture of the tongue also interferes with developing a lip seal and establishing nasal breathing which is critical to occlusal stability, airway and sleep. This abnormal lip, jaw, or tongue position during rest, swallowing or speech is an orofacial myofunctional disorder. If left untreated you are at risk for orthodontic relapse, TMJ disorder, digestive disorders, sleep disorders, periodontal problems, posture problems..


What's actually happening


A person swallows 800 to 1000 times a day with 50 grams of pressure per cm. If the patient swallows forward against the teeth it places 4lbs of pressure causing the teeth to constantly move during speech and swallowing. In addition it leads to atypical jaw movement patterns and swallowing patterns which impacts airway, sleep, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and periodontal problems such as gum disease and cavities. Proffit, Fields, and Sarver stated: “Respiratory needs are the primary determinant of the posture of the jaws and tongue [and head]. … Therefore, it seems entirely reasonable that an altered respiratory pattern, such as breathing through the mouth rather than the nose, could change the posture of the head, jaw, [teeth,] and tongue.”


The Bigger Issue

According to research by JoAnn Smithpetera and David Covell, Jr, 60% of orthodontic cases relapse if the underlying orofacial myofunctional disorder is not corrected during treatment. Of course, the orthodontist will eventually win that battle, but as soon as the braces are removed, the teeth will again be under pressure and will begin to shift. (reference: Relapse of anterior open bites treated with orthodontic appliances with and without orofacial myofunctional therapy JoAnn Smithpetera and David Covell, Jrb Portland, Ore Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 2010;137:605-14).



The Solution


During orthodontic treatment teeth positions will change and the muscles attached to the teeth and mouth have been working all your life in the same position. After orthodontic treatment the oral muscles have to work in another position that they are not used to so the muscles revert back to it’s old patterns that initially caused the crooked teeth, open bite, overbite, tmj issues, etc. Proper tongue function is necessary for success with future braces. The tongue will be trained to function like a natural retainer that can minimize aggressive orthodontic work and relapse.


The role of myofunctional therapy is to teach your orofacial muscles how to work in their new position before, during, and after orthodontic treatment. Many patients’ have been told their teeth shift because they did not diligently wear their retainers for the recommended amount of time. Yet myofunctional therapy trains the tongue to rest high on the roof of the patient’s mouth, which will naturally help prevent potential relapse of orthodontic cases.



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