The Stomatognathic System

The Stomatognathic system is a fancy name for the everything encompassing the mouth (stoma) and jaws (gnath). I see relatively few people who come in and tell me they have problems in this area, but it’s still something to consider because osteopathy is holistic. If someone mentions jaw pain, like lower back pain, I want to find out why it’s there. But rather than looking at the upper back or pelvis for factors in lower back pain, I’ll be looking around the head, neck, and shoulders.

Stomatognathic System

Posture and Stomatognathic Symptoms

It’s not too hard to make a link between poor posture and neck pain. Slouching at the computer makes you tilt your neck back to see the screen, so muscles at the back of the neck get tight.

But what else is happening here? Like your biceps work against your triceps, there are muscles at the front of the neck that work against the back. So if the neck is extended, and those back-of-neck muscles are contracted, the muscles on the front will be on stretch. These muscles run from the chest and shoulder to the jaw. So when you sit slouched at the computer, your jaw really wants to open. But we have a reflex to stop that happening. Instead, we clench the jaw muscles.

Suddenly it’s not so surprising that working on the muscles around a clicky jaw can get a pretty immediate effect! Sitting for hours with a clenched jaw due to posture will take its toll and quickly undo any stretching done in clinic, so fixing your work posture is key to long term change.

Orthodontics and the Stomatognathic System

Thinking about the jaw in this way, it’s less surprising that malocclusion of the teeth has been linked with postural issues. Research suggests that the relationship is so predictable that an overbite is associated with a forward leaning posture, and an underbite with a backward leaning one. Links have also been drawn between malocclusion and idiopathic scoliosis.

coursera (Uni of Minneapolis),


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