Does one's job or sport require a specific head, neck, or jaw position?
Does the sport require an intraoral device or chin strap?
mandibular joint wear. Grinding or clenching of the teeth also causes abnormal tongue positions.
An athlete who breathes through the mouth rather than through the nose may have a problem with allergies or frequent colds, which in turn makes nose breathing difficult. Breathing with the mouth open results in the tongue moving forward and downward to the floor of the mouth. The weight of the tongue and open jaw puts more weight forward. As a result, the suboccipital muscles are forced to overwork. To allow better air flow, the athlete will extend the neck and move the head forward. This will eventually lead to a forward head posture and cervical dysfunction.
In young children, the tongue must rest against the palate for normal palate development. Tongue position affects the equilibrium of the temporomandibular joint and its muscles. At rest, the tongue should lay against the back of the upper incisors, with the middle one third of the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth and the posterior one third of the tongue forming a 45° angle between the hard palate and the pharynx. During swallowing, the tongue should move up and back with the lips closed. If this tongue position or swallowing pattern is altered, the normal temporomandibular joint and cervical spine kinetic chain is altered, resulting in problems.
If the athlete habitually has a forward head position or excessive midcervical lordosis, the jaw forward position contributes to muscle imbalances of the flexor and extensor muscles of the head and neck. The tonic neck reflex (TNF) plays a primary role in an individual's ability to achieve correct head-neck posture. There is an interrelationship with the vestibular and ocular systems with the TNF. If the tonic neck reflexes or cervical proprioceptive afferents are injured (i.e., whiplash, trauma) or overused (daily posture, sports activities), they may lose their ability to position the head and neck. A forward head posture is often assumed and TMJ dysfunction results.
Certain sports or occupations predispose the temporomandibular joint to extra stress:
• singers spend a great deal of time with the mouth open
• telephone receptionists spend all day talking
• shot putters compress the jaw on one side before the throw
• weight lifters clench the teeth before a lift
• boxers' jaws are a target for punches
Certain jaw and neck postures required for sports or occupations also stress the temporomandibular joint:
• violinists tilt and lean the head forward over the violin
• freestyle swimmers repeatedly turn the head and neck
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