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The Influence of Oropalatal Dimensions on the Measurement of Tongue Strength


Tongue strength is routinely evaluated in clinical swallowing evaluations since lingual weakness is an established contributor to dysphagia. Tongue strength may be clinically quantified by the maximum isometric tongue pressure (MIP) generated by the tongue against the palate; however, wide ranges in normal performance remain to be fully explained. Although orthodontic theory has long suggested a relation between lingual function and oral cavity dimensions, little attention has been given to the potential influence of oral and palatal structure(s) on healthy variance in MIP generation. Therefore, anterior and posterior tongue strength measures and oropalatal dimensions were obtained across 147 healthy adults (aged 18–88 years). Age was confirmed as a significant, independent predictor explaining approximately 10.2% of the variance in anterior tongue strength, but not a significant predictor of posterior tongue strength. However, oropalatal dimensions predicted anterior tongue strength with over three times the predictive power of age alone (p < .001). Significant models for anterior tongue strength (R 2 = .457) and posterior tongue strength (R 2 = .283) included a combination of demographic predictors (i.e., age and/or gender) and oropalatal dimensions. Palatal width, estimated tongue volume, and gender were significant predictors of posterior tongue strength (p < .001). Therefore, oropalatal dimensions may warrant consideration when accurately differentiating between pathological lingual weakness and healthy individual difference.

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We gratefully acknowledge Justine Rinehart, Margaret Way, Anne Delaney, Erica Murrell, Caiti Boyack, Carolyn Pellegrino, Amy Happ, Apryl Bailey, Nicole Tryon, and Grant Leacox who contributed to the success of this project.

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Correspondence to Laura L. Pitts.

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No conflicts of interest or financial support to be declared.

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Research completed at the Florida State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

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Pitts, L.L., Stierwalt, J.A.G., Hageman, C.F. et al. The Influence of Oropalatal Dimensions on the Measurement of Tongue Strength. Dysphagia 32, 759–766 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00455-017-9820-4

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  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Lingual–palatal pressure
  • Tongue strength
  • Oropalatal dimensions