The Important Role of the Tongue in the Body & Airway

Your tongue is not just there to do cool tricks or show someone what you think of them. The tongue actually plays a vital role in how a person feels, looks, eats, swallows, tastes, speaks, and, most importantly, breathes!

The 5 Most Important Things Your Tongue Affects


Breathing is THE most important thing we do in a day. Air is supposed to get to the lungs by passing through your nose. This happens when the tongue is up against the roof of your mouth, forcing you to breathe through your nose. Poor, low tongue position allows air to come in through the mouth and not get filtered or humidified. Plus, low tongue posture causes the opening to the lungs to be less open. If a proper amount of air can go through the nasal cavity, then one can easily, comfortably keep the tongue up against the roof of the mouth.

Facial Development

The lower ⅔ of the face determines how one looks and is perceived in society, and the tongue plays an integral role. The tongue shapes the upper arch of your mouth and defines the floor of the nose. And, the wider the better for the airway and the cosmetics of the face. It acts as the best “oral appliance” because the tongue causes forward growth of the upper jaw as well. Basically, the more forward, the better for breathing. Finally, the tongue supports the cranium so that we don’t get “long in the face” as we get older, and it is critical for good posture.

Controlling Bruxism (Teeth Grinding or Jaw Clenching)

All of the muscles in the body have antagonistic muscles to keep all muscles “in check”. The most common ones you would know are the biceps on the front of your arm to the triceps on the back of your arm. Or, the quadriceps on the front of your thighs to the hamstrings on the back. You have a similar pairing of muscles in your mouth. The only effective antagonistic muscle for the clenching muscles of the jaw is the tongue! Keep your tongue up against the roof of your mouth and you will not clench as hard. People with head and neck pain, take note!


If breathing is the most important, then swallowing is the most frequent thing we do. The average person swallows about 2000 times a day! So, let’s do it well. The tongue must be in between the upper teeth when we swallow, or the power of the cheeks and their sucking motion will push the upper teeth and make a narrow arch. When you swallow properly, the tongue is up. This allows the throat to do the movement, while the face should look like it didn’t move.


If the tongue does not have the freedom to move around like it needs to, then speech will likely not happen. You’ve likely experienced that in a playful setting as a child when a peer told you to hold your tongue and try to talk. It doesn’t go very well! This can show up more seriously with tethered tissues or tongue ties. Pediatricians and dentists look for tethered tissues when caring for young patients.

Oops, did we forget taste? The list is too long to talk about all of the tongue’s awesome responsibilities. But, surely that is enough proof that the tongue needs to be up against the roof of the mouth as much as possible! You can find a pediatrician or dentist who knows what it is supposed to do, and Ripple will do its part!