The Top 25 Biological Functions of the Mouth

by G. P. Greenacre

Following over 50 years of study and listening to experts, I want to share with you why good growth and good functioning of the mouth is so important. Let me explain why the Mouth is the Mirror of your Life. Good jaws mean a better neck alignment and a better airway and less snoring and less sleep apnea, good gums mean less bloodstream inflammation and good teeth will ensure you good jaw support, a good smile and a long healthy life.

What are the top twenty-five biological functions of the mouth?

1. Nasal Breathing. Nasal (Nose) Breathing, the first system, depends upon a well-grown upper palate or maxillae and palatine bones. Our oropharynx is important because nasal breathing actually ionizes the air we breathe. The paranasal sinuses also add nitric oxide to our air as it passes to our lungs, which helps with our heart and our metabolism. Most of our breathing should be via the nose for this reason as well as their conditioning and the cleansing effect of nasal reaching.

2. Mouth Breathing is an alternative to nasal breathing. We are not supposed to mouth breath all the time. Breathing well is dependent on jaw and tongue position since the front half of our mostly muscular airway is the tongue. If your lower jaw is retruded or you bite too deeply then you might snore, or have a tendency to clench your jaw muscles while you sleep. This mouth breathing is second best and snoring is not far behind. Mouth breathers probably have more infections than nose breathers. Remember the pneumonia that kills old people usually comes from mouth breathing and inhaling or aspirating mouth organisms while sleeping and snoring.

3. Suckling for Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the number one health, prosperity and happiness measure function that we humans can partake in at birth. Not breastfeeding and not supporting breastfeeding is “wrong thinking” in life, in politics, in our economy and in modern medicine and modern dentistry. All breastfeeding mothers should have a tax deduction and a thank you note from their dentists. Plus, a financial incentive to continue breast-feeding from their government. This would recognize that breastfeeding is the number one health measure for newborns to grow and prosper. This pays off in the long run as an investment in preventive medicine. Every national government and the World Health Organization should pass a resolution that Breastfeeding is a birthright of all infants.

4. Swallowing lubricates our digestive tract and allows us to consume food unless we want a lifetime on an IV drip. The tongue is not a simple one-nerve muscle. The tongue is actually a specialized organ system powered by the five key cranial nerves of our basic embryonic developmental arches. Our incredible tongue–hyoid bone system is what drives swallowing and speech. Did you know that until about 6 months of age the human baby could both breathe through its nose and swallow through its throat to breastfeed at the same time?

5. Tongue-Powered Speech. Production of different speech sounds depends upon our all-powerful Tongue, which is powered by all five developmental nerves and is uniquely human in its construction and ability to produce speech sounds along with the unique airway of humans. Speech is just thought in action.

6. Assist balance, vision and hearing. Without a healthy tongue, trigeminal nerve system and healthy jaws, we can lose our balance and we can fail to walk in a straight line. Got a balance problem? Visit a dentist! Our ears are our balance and hearing organs, and they are intimately tied to our jaws. The upper jawbone supports our eyeballs and if it does not fully develop (as is often today the case) this puts strain on the eyeball and all the supporting muscles. Dr Harold Arlen was a strong proponent of medical-dental cooperation as he wrote in his article The Otomandibular Syndrome. Speaking about the connection between the Tensor Veli Palatini (TVP) muscle, the jaw, stuffy ears or hearing loss and the Trigeminal nerve says this, “The TVP is the only muscle of the soft palate innervated by the Trigeminal nerve and the only muscle that functions to open the Eustachian tube. This is the key to the relationship between the jaw and ear dysfunction that is plaguing modern man, along with the deterioration of other parts of the jaw and the dental apparatus.”

7. Posture. Man evolved painfully over millions of years to become an erect hominid. Today we are losing our erect posture and becoming bent forward with scoliosis, twisted spines and wrynecks. If the jaw is too far back or too deep, then that person tends to have a forward head posture. This is a brain compensation to preserve the airway since oxygen is the brain’s number one food. The modern human form is degenerating because our diet and lifestyle has changed for the worse. We are too connected to sugars and electronic devices. The number one symptom of poor jaw growth, posture and function, a sore neck or a headache.

8. Good Sinus Drainage. If the palate fails to grow to the dimensions in our genetic blueprint then our sinuses will not drain well.

9. Resisiting Inflammations and Infection. Resistance to microbial diseases of the mouth or resisting systemic Illness, Inflammation and Infection in general. Sir William Osler said, “The Mouth is the Mirror of all Disease.” Further some experts have suggested up to 85 % of all ailments in humans start via the oral route. Dr. Charles Mayo thought highly of oral care as well: “Dentistry is a distinctive health service and can extend human life ten years.”

10. Record our Mineral Density, which tells us about our Mineral Deficiencies. Teeth are the most mineral dense structures in our bodies; well, they used to be that way! The concentration of trace minerals in our baby teeth and adult teeth is a unique biological phenomenon. We should be using it more in medical diagnosis. Today soil depletion means we are getting only a small percentage of the trace minerals that our great grandparents did from eating the same food. LINUS PAULING SAID BEHIND EVERY DISEASE THERE IS A TRACE MINERAL DEFICIENCY! I predict the next 10 years in medical restorative nutrition all the talk will be about trace mineral deficiencies and enzymes. Enzymes are needed to incorporate minerals into our osteogenesis metabolism.

11. Mastication or Chewing Food. This is enjoyed by all of us every day. However, Life continues if there are no teeth present, as any denture wearer will tell you. Anyone can drink a green smoothes with no teeth and our diet generally is getting softer and softer all the time. Further, the “All on Four” implant program is making mastication possible when you have no teeth.

12. Spit and spitting is an important function of the mouth. Spit is full of powerful natural bacteria killing neutrophils. This is why dogs and cats lick their wounds. Spit helps digest food and all the cups and cups spit we produce and swallow every day helps lubricates our digestive system. Spit contributes good and bad bacteria to our micro biome.

13. Mouth Digestion starts with the mouth enzymes to begin digestion. Our mouth produces many enzymes to begin the process of digestion, amylases for carbohydrates lipases to start fat digestion and other enzymes emanate from our salivary glands. Saliva lubricates the whole digestive tract. Mouth organisms get swallowed and contribute to our Micro biome. Some enzymes like lysozymes are there just to attack foreign bacteria that get into our mouths on our foods. The rationale behind chewing your food slowly is to stimulate more digestive enzymes to enhance food digestion and minimize indigestion.

14. Singing is a specialized form of expressing ourselves with our voice. Singing involves not just the mouth and the vocal cords but the chest and our breathing system and even our sinuses and Eustachian tubes all interact. Apparently singing is uniquely a human phenomenon. We can all sing and some of us very badly. And yodelling, well that is special? Even Humming deserves an honourable mention.

 15. Whistling this is as close to a bird call that humans can get. Several popular songs over the years have featured whistling and one you might enjoy is the song. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” By Bobby McFerrin it is on YouTube.

16. Coughing function. Coughing is a vital function to clear your throat or lungs of organisms or debris that should not be there. We have all had bouts of coughing from respiratory illnesses and the cough is an expectorating function that makes us feel better. Coughing can also be a sign of GERD and irritation of the trachea with stomach acids. There is a great difference clinically between short term coughing and chronic coughing.

17. Ideally, the first epigenetic function of the jaw is to have the jaws and teeth grow so fully and perfectly that there is no need for fillings, orthodontics or wisdom tooth removals. The tongue works in utero on the three embryonic plates of the forming palate to help grow the future palate. The small medial plate becomes the premaxilla or rugae area or the milk pad spot for breastfeeding and houses the incisive section of the second division of the trigeminal nerve while the lateral palatine plates start out vertically like stacked shelves then that the tongue turns them to become the body of the palate and to allow them to fuse with the nasomedial plate to grow the palate forward and laterally. All this palatal development happens about 8 to 9 weeks of age. Then the tongue continues to grow the palate to be more forward and wider up to our birth and even after we are born. So, the role of the tongue and the physiologic swallow is to be the master architect of the growth of the palate by touching the rugae area just behind the front teeth.

Ideally all dentists should work together to create better grown palates or a better next generation of children called “Paleo-Moderns”. The key to this is super nutrition and bone broth bone marrow and fishmeal supplements as used by the famous Swedish researcher Dr. Alfred Aaslander. His brilliant concept of Complete Tooth Nutrition was published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition and promptly forgotten. To create the best tooth and jaw growth possible we need an abundant and steady supply of trace minerals and enzymes and essential oils beside the standard vitamins and amino acids. An Ontario born dentist Dr. Westin Price also wrote about the Paleo diet and said we have lost facial dimension. The late orthodontist Robert Rubin told me this same concept in a telephone interview when I was a dental editor for Medifacts/Dentafacts. He said we should start excellent supplemented nutrition one year before the child is conceived for both parents and continue through the pregnancy and until the child reaches puberty and beyond. All our ancestors had this type of full facial and full palatal blueprint expression and thus needed no wisdom teeth removals, they needed no orthodontics and due to high trace mineral intake they had no cavities. However, periodontal disease is a different story since periodontal diseases were evident in the Egyptian mummies and many other ancient human remains worldwide. Our challenge is to create “Paleo-Moderns”. In 2002, the AMA stated that (due to soil depletion) we should all be taking multivitamin supplements. You need all the nutritional components to build a perfect human.

18. Laughter is valuable and uniquely human function. We recommend you Google TED talks and read about laughter from the experts. They say it well with humour and candour. By the way, do you still miss Robin Williams like me and my friends do?

19. Vomiting when needed. This can be a life saving manoeuvre.

20. Kissing and all the romantic potential of our mouths is another great mouth function. A 30-second kiss means a spit and bacteria exchange of epic proportions but nobody listens.

21. Stereognosis. This is the tactile exploration by the newborn infant of the world by tactile exploration with its tongue and lips.

22. Mandibular Startle Reflex No matters what part of your body is hurt or shocked you will have a Mandibular Startle Reflex and sometimes a vocal one. This is an innate function.

23. Act as good Skin. Skin is our biggest organ system and gum diseases are dermatological or skin diseases under another name. A dermatologist once told me that the purpose of skin is to keep the blood in and the bugs out. Dentists treat chronic and acute skin-gum infections and should talk at every dermatological conference in the world on periodontal infections and their local and systemic implications.

24. The Electrical Control Coordinator for the whole body.

Dr. Henry Ulhlemeyer was a very well-informed Ears, Nose, and Throat specialist who believed very strongly in physiologic jaw balancing for maximizing your overall health. Dr. Henry Ulhlemeyer said, “If the mandible is not physiologically positioned all stress hormones are automatically stimulated, all muscles tense, blood pressure rises to overcome resistance. Pulse quickens, respiration is shallow and loses efficiency. The body raises it blood sugar to fuel this emergency, releases adrenalin and increases the pain threshold. The gastrointestinal tract responds acutely…”

He then went on to say that the good functioning of the mandible was a key component in the basic concept of Integrative Medicine. “In my opinion the mandible is the electrical control coordinator for the whole body i.e. (in combination with the total chewing mechanism of teeth, periodontal tissues, and muscular assemblage through feedback to the brain). The mandible and all its associated muscles in proper physiologic relationship allow the body to relax refresh and replenish expended energies. The mandible has to be in a physiologically balanced relationship to make the total body work as one balanced unit.”

25. Facial Expression. The smile has intrinsic and extrinsic value to all humans. Socially we would never post a bad smile on Facebook or send a poor facial expression out to friends when we want to positively represent our lives. The psychological confidence and the power of a good smile are not to be underestimated. Dr. Edward Angle said, “It is not enough to correct the malpositions of the teeth in one arch, but also to establish the correct occlusion of all the teeth and restore facial expression.”

In summary, Archaeologists and Anthropologists know that the human faces are shrinking but they do not know why.

Actually palates and noses are getting measurably narrower this in turn causes maxilla –mandibular-airway dysfunction and also causes postural and airway distress.

This quote from Dr John Diamond tells us why your palate is important.  We as dentist have to figure out why this is happening. Westin Price wrote a whole book on Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and he left us some clues!!  Dr. Alfred Aaslander, a Swedish biochemist, who suffered from extensive tooth decay as a child, wrote about “Complete Tooth Nutrition” using bone meal for its trace mineral content over 50 years ago in the Journal of Applied Nutrition vol17 no4 1964.  He applied the principles of trace mineral supplementation to his children and he raised kids with NO CAVITIES AND GOOD ARCHES!!

Dr. John Diamond stated this about the Maxilla or our palates.

“One of the greatest gifts a child can receive from his mother is a well-formed palatal arch. But it is doubtful whether any of us has ever even seen a normal arch because it may well be that only primitive man on his so-called primitive diet has a truly normal arch. With such an arch the following benefits are conferred:

  • There will be minimal occlusal problems.
  • The tongue is most likely to be in the normal position against the rugae with all the benefits incurred therefrom.
  • Three of the structures most to do with centering and balancing the body in space will most likely be free to function normally – the spenoid bone, hyoid bone and temporomandibular joint.
  • There will be an accompanying development of the lateral aspects of the face – especially of the malar and zygoma bones, rendering it very easy for the patient to smile.
  • Normal development and stimulation of the pituitary will be facilitated.
  • There will be overall health and well being of the child.”

Dr Diamond is in my opinion one of the smartest MD’s that North American Medical schools have ever produced. We all (doctors, dentists and osteopaths) should study his books and his lifetime of teachings and writings.

Here is Dr. Price’s quote:

“The most indelible impression left by my investigations among primitive races is that which came from examining 1276 skulls of (Peruvian). People who had been buried hundreds of years ago without finding a single skull with the typical marked narrowing of the face and dental arches. That afflicts a considerable proportion. Of the residents in modernized Peru…. the United States…. and many communities of Europe today. I know of no problem so important to our modern civilization as the finding of the reason for this, and the elimination of the cause… Few will recognize the significance of this important point.”

This last sentence sums up his lifetime’s work. “Few will recognize the significance of this.”  Yes our faces are shrinking and we are oblivious to this major health problem. It is important that every family know this fact. The human face is shrinking! We should all know why it is shrinking and how to reverse this pathological trend. The key to reversing this is to keep our natural tongue to palate swallow, use no artificial nipples, intake more trace minerals and enzymes and probiotics in our diet through more veggies, more fruits, more bone marrow, more bone broth soups and of course more breastfeeding for our babies.

Dr. Charles Mayo is quoted as saying:

“Dentistry is a distinctive health service and can extend human life ten years.”

Another famous teaching MD, Sir William Osler said:

“The Mouth is the Mirror of all disease”.

Oral Health welcomes this original article.

About the Author
Dr. George Paul Greenacre, General Dentist D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) Downtown Orthodontics, Ottawa ON Canada — Dr. George Paul Greenacre graduated from McGill University. He has served as a dental editor for nine years of his career. Fifteen percent of dentists have earned one fellowship. Dr. Greenacre has earned four fellowships and is working on three more in between his four hockey games per week and working on his several e books in process. His office theme is “smart dentistry for smart families.”

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