Got ear infections? Check your mouth!
It used to be thought that ear infections were caused by outside sources, like swimming in dirty water, or having too much buildup of earwax. As medicine advanced, it has become clear that middle ear infections are mostly caused by inefficiency in the body’s natural ability to drain the fluid in the middle ear. Many children become candidates for ear tubes due to the frequency of middle ear infection occurrence. However, there is risk associated with ear tubes, including scar tissue, weakening the eardrum, bleeding, or further infection.
But what if the answer lies in an area of the body most people wouldn’t consider? The mouth! Now before you stop reading, walk through the following anatomy lesson with me. As an infant, the Eustachian tube sits level to the ground, making it very difficult to fight gravity and clear naturally. As we grow, the Eustachian tube becomes more angled, and thus clears more easily. So remember, Got ear infections? Check your mouth!
Additionally, when we are young, the adenoid and tonsils tend to be larger. And the opening of the Eustachian tube sits right between the adenoids and tonsils, making it easy for germs enveloped in the lymphoid tissue to travel it’s way to the Eustachian tube.
So where does this all fit into the mouth? As usual, the tongue is the main culprit!
Most of us who have been on an airplane during take of and landing know to swallow frequently in order to “clear the pressure” from our ears. The “pop” you hear when you swallow are caused by very small but strong muscles acting to clear the Eustachian tube called the levator veli palatine, and tensor veli palatini muscles. In children whose palate is more narrowed, the tongue cannot rest in normal position, and often leans down and forward. This often leads to mouth breathing and enlarged tonsils, which prevent the soft palate from elevating normally. In addition, many of these children are tongue-tied, and unable to swallow in a normal pattern, leading to weakened tensor and levator veli palatini muscles and an inability to clear the Eustachian tubes. It’s the perfect storm!
So what can you do? Well, first and foremost, I highly recommend empowering yourself with knowledge by reading a book written by David C. Page, DDS called “Your Jaws Your Life”. There is a lot of literature and scientific evidence correlating ear infections to jaw development. That being said, your ENT should be addressing the frequent ear infections, and large adenoids. Additionally, a dentist should be evaluating your child for a deep bite, narrow palate, and tongue-tie. Lastly, a myofunctional therapist should be involved in assisting in tongue posture, regaining tongue strength, and reorganizing swallow patterns.
If this resonates with your family, we would be happy to discuss this further with you at your next appointment at The Brush Stop Pediatric Dentistry.
In the meantime, feel free to learn more about us at www.thebrushstopdental.com.