'Tongue-up' for a Better Life
Our PAUSE Salon, ‘Conversations on Discovering Connections’, took place on 27 February 2018 at Core Collective. Core Collective is situated at 79 Anson Road, and we are proud to announce that they are our salons' venue sponsors.
The following panellists graced the last salon:
1) Pooja Vig, CEO and Functional Medicine Nutritionist at The Nutrition Clinic
2) Dr Yue Weng Cheu, Founder and Clinical Director of DP Dental and The Linguadontics Clinic
3) Alexander Mearns, Founder of Levitse, a Holistic Wellness Clinic.
> Note that this report will cover what Dr Yue Weng Cheu shared at the salon.
MODERATOR: Your new clinic, Linguadontics, charts one’s wellness via the practice of assessing the tongue’s position in the mouth. It believes firmly that when the tongue is in a healthy place, it can elevate one’s overall well-being. As an opening question: How related is Linguadontics to traditional/ancient wellness practices?
DR YUE WENG CHEU: Ancient forms of teaching like Tai Chi and Yoga actually emphasis this tongue-up position, because it opens your airways.
MODERATOR: The 'Linguadontics' method of looking at health and wellness is not what we’d call mainstream yet – what experience(s) inspired you to start this practice?
DR YUE WENG CHEU: It all started with the study of my own experiences. I was born a tongue-tied baby; this meant that I could not lift my tongue efficiently and this affected my ability to breastfeed. As a result, my mother was led to believe that she 'could not breastfeed', and eventually that she had 'no more breast milk' - I imagine that this would resonate with many modern mothers. However, the truth is that I could not lift my tongue high enough to suckle normally - that was why I was not breastfeeding well. Later on, I carried the same habits into my teenaged and young adult years, too. This resulted in chronic teeth grinding, particularly at night. When I was 36, I started to suffer from severe neck and backache. People would then tell me that since I was a dentist, I should have expected this as an occupational hazard. But, as I've found out, it's not so simply attributed - it's more than that, and the tongue is central to my wellness perspective.
MODERATOR: What does one experience from years of bad posture as a result of not keeping the tongue up?
DR YUE WENG CHEU: My cervical spine doesn't curve as it should, it is slightly straight, which is not good. And because of this, I have a lumbar curve, too. Moreover, I also experienced head tilts, and even my jaw used to 'click'! But now if I put my aligners, they stop clicking. I am too young to need support to get up from a seated position - but that is my reality.
MODERATOR: These problems indeed could not have developed overnight. What is the cause of these symptoms? How accurately does a tongue-up position produce results? Are there any other accompanying factors that you have to also address in patients that come to you?
DR YUE WENG CHEU: As a medical professional, I'm glad that I start at the mouth because, in my view, it is 'where life starts'. Pooja mentioned a lot of things that I concur with, though my focus is on what happens before anything enters the gut. Let me ask everyone: is air important? Of course, it is! Why is air so important? Because, without it, we are dead in a few minutes. To further illustrate this, let me shift the attention to one of my young patients whom I saw at my clinic at the age of four-days: If its tongue is tied, its vital air passages will be blocked, and as a natural reaction, the infant will try to circumvent this by 'fighting' for air. To describe what happens, essentially the infant would tense up its jaw muscles and 'sling' its jaw forward to compensate. Often, the entire head is also brought forward in sort of an awkward stance that people get used to. This is how you get infants as young a few months old coming into my clinic, snoring!
MODERATOR: Breastfeeding vs bottle feeding: Some women have a tough time breastfeeding, and they immediately categorise themselves to be ‘one of those women who can’t breastfeed’. I understand that you have an alternative point of view on this. Please share with us how the tongue position in infants is central to healthy breastfeeding, and what are the consequences of that?
DR YUE WENG CHEU: When a baby breastfeeds, it uses all 12 cranial nerves - this is the myofunctioal component to it. If babies breastfeed, they naturally learn innate myofunctional responses. And if they continue to breastfeed, they're tongue position will most likely not be adversely affected. However, these days you get a bottle in your mouth, so then you're not practising or using the proper muscles to suckle optimally. Why does this happen in bottle feeding? Because it isn't the same as feeding on the breast - contrary to popular belief, it is difficult for babies to feed on a bottle. As an adult, the closest analogy to help us understand how difficult it is would be trying to drink from a generic water bottle while lying down. Anyone that has tried this will tell you that it is not that easy to do. It trains your tongue to go forward, which is not the right way to swallow. Repeat this action over and over again over time, and you become a mouth breather. Why is it bad being a mouth breather? Well, long-term mouth breathing encourages the growth of large tonsils and also gives us nose issues; your mucus produced your nose, does not get cleared with every breath you take (which is what is supposed to happen). Moreover, there is a sinus lining in your nose that produces nitrate oxide during breathing. As you breathe properly, and sincerely, you are disinfecting the air you're taking into your lungs. And funnily enough, when you breathe deeply, you introduce trace amounts of mucous into your gut - this is one source of probiotics which means that it has antibacterial properties. This then travels through your gut and helps to 'swipe' everything clean.
MODERATOR: How can we all take steps to better our tongue positions, so that there is a better connection between our tongue and the rest of our well-being?
DR YUE WENG CHEU: To me, it's all about self-empowerment. I want more people to understand that we can heal ourselves. Start with there steps: have your (1) tongue up, (2) lips are closed, and (3) breathe through your nose. Where should your tongue be positioned while doing all this? It's simple, just say the word 'AND'; that is where your tongue should rest. Now, with your tongue up, try your best to create a 'suction' within the mouth, and then try to breathe and notice the difference. Breathe like this for a minute, and most likely, you'll see that your heart rate will drop slightly, an indication that you're breathing well.
MODERATOR: I understand that you're probably one of the pioneers of this perspective in Singapore and Asia. Are there any others looking into what you're doing as well? What do you hope for the future of Linguadontics?
DR YUE WENG CHEU: Actually, I'm happy to say that I'm not the only one in Singapore looking into this. I'm working with the Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information. Their final year students are working on a National Awareness Program, focusing on Paediatric obstructive sleep apnea, which is very much related to what we address at the Linguadontics clinic. Additionally, my colleagues at Stanford University in America, who are trained in dentistry like myself as well as those with ENT backgrounds, have confirmed in separate studies that Restrictive Lingual Frenum is linked to Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome and Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which results in obstructive sleep apnea. They have also surmised that if it is not treated soon after birth, it will cause problems during the later stages of an individual's life. I would consider them to be on the same page as I am.
All in all, tonnes of people are suffering from mouth breathing from infancy, into adulthood and beyond. And yet, we are not dealing with it adequately. It's time for us to bring this prevalent issue to the fore.
Dr Yue Weng Cheu is a multi-disciplinary Dentist. He received his Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and is a Member of the Joint Dental Faculties at The Royal College of Surgeons of England. He is also a Fellow at the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons and International Congress of Oral Implantologists. Dr Yue also leads in the capacity of Founder and Clinical Director of DP Dental and most recently The Linguadontics Clinic, which is a first-of-its kind tongue clinic that helps patients overcome breastfeeding issues, speech development, mouth breathing tendencies with nasal congestion as well as obstructive sleep apnea. Have a question for Dr Yue and his team? Feel free to contact them directly or send us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org – we'll be sure to get your question to them.