Skip to content

Optimal Oral Function

By Dr. Katrina Greer, Orleans Chiropractor

Do you snore? Have sinus infections? Allergies? Jaw clenching?

Did you know, that all of these conditions have links to your oral functioning? While symptoms can vary between people, there are developmental factors that increase the risk of developing these conditions. With the right tools, there is a lot that can be done to manage and prevent these conditions, starting as early as infancy.

During pregnancy and delivery, the shape of baby’s skull (cranium) begins to form. Baby’s position in-utero and the type of delivery mom experiences, can lead to torticollis (head rotation preference), plagiocephaly (flat head) and other conditions. One cranial bone in particular, the sphenoid, is situated on either side of the skull, behind your eyes. These two bones come together to form the hard palate at the top of your mouth.

Ok, enough anatomy, what does this mean?

The way a baby moves, how their reflexes develop, and how or whether they breastfeed will influence this hard palate. The shape and position of the head can influence the hard palate, and the regular movement of their tongue will further shape it over time. When a baby experiences reflux, gagging, a clicking sound when feeding or nurses in a way that is painful for mom, it is a sign of an intraoral problem. A high palate can lead to the trapping of gas that baby swallows, a tongue tie could require them to chomp to latch, or a restricted cranium can influence jaw position and cause issues feeding. Further, a high palate will begin to affect the sinuses sitting right above.

With proper feeding mechanics and tongue function, there is improved nasal breathing and proper development of the muscles in the jaw and face. The jaw will follow how a baby sucks, and posture will go on to follow the jaw. It is really all connected! Certain pacifiers and sippy cups can negatively impact tongue function, so there are a lot of lifestyle factors and small changes that can have a large impact. We recommend the Ninni pacifier at our clinics.

When nasal breathing is not possible, many young kids become mouth breathers and assume a forward head posture to open the airway. As you can see, there are many points that health care providers can intervene and provide support, such as, a tongue tie release, lactation consulting, exercises, and chiropractic adjustments to correct head position and alignment.

When issues such as mouth breathing, forward head posture, or a high palate are not addressed early, it can lead to further problems with the jaw and dental malocclusion as we age. Changing diets over the years and underdeveloped jaws have led to narrow palates and not enough room inside the mouth. Teeth can be removed, appliances and braces worn, but if you’ve experienced these interventions yourself, you’ll know that it doesn’t address the underlying cause. While these procedures may correct the aesthetics, it does little to improve your health. Mouth breathing can affect the teeth themselves, leading to cavities, and jaw tension influences grinding of the teeth (bruxism), leading to further damage.

Proper nasal breathing humidifies the air that we breathe, while mouth breathing leads to dryness, increasing the risk of infection. Restricted nasal passages can lead to sinus infection, allergies and inflammation. As an adult, conditions such as snoring and sleep apnea are influenced by breathing and forward head posture. So, what can you do?

Regular chiropractic care can address problems early, and finding a functional airway dentist can benefit yourself and your family. Most holistic dentists who perform palate expansion or frenectomies (tongue tie releases), will also recommend working with a body work practitioner. This can include chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists or myofunctional therapists to provide exercises. Chiropractors can also correct forward head posture, while acupuncture can address muscle tension and stress.

If you any questions about who to see in the Ottawa area, please ask your practitioner at any of our 3 locations!

–          Dr. Katrina Greer

Add Your Comment (Get a Gravatar)

Your Name


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.