How your posture is related to your teeth … in my opinion

Until recently (the last few years) I have never thought about the link between straight teeth and ‘good’ posture, it wasn’t something taught in my physiotherapy studies at university. However having worked as a head, neck and jaw physio for a few years now I have gone down the rabbit hole of everything to do with the mouth including the teeth. I mean you have to become familiar with the teeth when you are treating the jaw… the systems are working together!

In the past the jury has been out in terms of finding a clear link in the literature between postural control (the ability to assume and maintain an upright position that is considered neutral) and occlusion (another name for the way your teeth meet together). However; a recent study found has found that there is a positive relationship with posture and occlusion. What the researchers found in the study was that postural control was improved when the diverse malocclusions of the participants were corrected artificially by positioning the jaw into a neutral position. The results were not as strong (statistically weak) when the participants were standing in a stable condition but there was a lot stronger correlation when the person was fatigued or standing on unstable conditions.

The researchers have a neurological explanation for this relationship, they think that sensory information from the trigeminal nerve, a cranial nerve that is responsible for innervating the muscle’s of mastication, is having an effect on postural control.

How is this all likely to be happening?

First lets look at the basic dental occlusions in the picture below.

Dental occlusion could be altering the position of the head and neck which then has an effect on the muscles of the this area. It is likely to alter the functional pattern of the muscles and then alter our sense of balance. So let’s talk a little bit about class II occlusion. Studies have found that Class II is linked to altered head position as well as altering the functional pattern of the masticatory muscles. As well as this some have suggested there is an increase in cervical hyperlordosis (a deeper than normal curve of the neck) and weak body posture.

So how do we get a class II occlusion?

Well this all starts before the age of 7. To develop a class 1 occlusion you really need your jaw and cranial bones to have developed well, when this happens you will grow a straight dental arch as an adult. As well as this you need good tongue posture, have a nasal breathing pattern and good lip muscles that allow lip closure. A fantastic blog post from functional dentist Dr Steven Lin explains this in his post What causes crooked teeth.

If you would like to know more about this subject feel free to contact me at hello@mettaphysiotherapy.com

References:

Julià-Sánchez, S., Álvarez-Herms, J., Gatterer, H., Burtscher, M., Pagès, T., & Viscor, G. (2015). Dental Occlusion Influences the Standing Balance on an Unstable Platform. Motor Control, 19(4), 341–354. doi:10.1123/mc.2014-0018

Posture in my opinion …….

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Physiotherapists around the world have historically been nagging people to watch their posture for eons, probably with very little awareness of their own! I won’t lie I was trained to do the same and have done the same until I realised it really was a lost cause most of the time.

Not to say that those who I would ask to be more aware of their posture didn’t listen but rather it was really an unrealistic task for most. Sure most of us could be cued to move into the correct posture; shoulders diagonally down, long through the back of the neck, don’t lock your knees blah blah blah. But no one could sustain this for more than a few seconds.

Why?

There are many things that are required in order to have what is considered aesthetically “good posture”

  1. Mobility – your joints need to be able to move with ease other wise your muscles are likely to work against a significant amount of resistance from joint stiffness.
  2. Strength – if you really want to work on your posture …… move and move with some resistance, regularly!
  3. Endurance – really your muscles don’t just need to be strong but they also need to have the endurance to maintain a position for an extended period of time.

These are all things that are achievable but take time, commitment and consistency so by simply just asking you to watch your posture for the sake of better posture is a delusion.

Now don’t get me wrong I often have times in my day where I am standing in line at the supermarket where I practice my ‘good posture’ position, however I use this as a posture reversal exercise. When I do this I am unloading structures and giving some respite to others for a few minutes in my day.

I think there are 2 important things to note:

  • There really is no such thing as a “bad posture”. There are many tasks in life that require you to adopt different body positions. Your body was made to move in a variety of ways and it is not necessarily the position that is the problem, the issue really is around sustaining any posture for an excessive amount of time, our bodies don’t like any static posture (no matter what it looks like) and this is where you can run into some problems.

“Your Best posture is your next one” Adam Meakins (The sports physio)

  • The posture is only an issue if it causing you symptoms. There is a significant amount of variance with human morphology so not everyone will fit into the “neutral posture” position. If it is not causing you any issues, it’s probably normal for you!

If you are looking for someone to assist in reversing your posture and increasing general mobility, strength and endurance, I offer one on one and duo Pilates and movement therapy classes, click the link to book. Book a Pilates and movement session