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How do funeral homes keep their mouth closed?

Funeral homes go to great lengths to prepare bodies for viewing and burial. This involves taking steps to close and secure the mouth so that the deceased has a peaceful, dignified appearance. There are several techniques used by funeral directors to keep a body’s mouth closed.

Why Keep the Mouth Closed?

An open mouth can appear unnatural and disturbing to grieving family members. It may also allow fluids to drain out. Keeping the mouth closed helps create a serene, respectful viewing. Some specific reasons funeral staff work to keep mouths shut include:

  • Present a calm, dignified appearance for families
  • Prevent leakage of bodily fluids
  • Avoid the jaw opening from rigor mortis changes
  • Stop insect intrusion into the mouth

With the mouth sealed, the deceased can be properly displayed for funerals, visitations, or memorial services.

Rigor Mortis Complicates Closure

One challenge is that when a body dies, rigor mortis causes the muscles to stiffen. This happens in a set pattern over 24-48 hours. The jaw is one of the first areas affected. As rigor mortis sets in, the lower jaw will often drop open.

Funeral staff have to work promptly after death to pose and secure the mouth before the rigidity makes it difficult. Techniques have developed over the decades to address this mortis mouth opening.

Methods for Keeping the Mouth Closed

Over the years, funeral professionals have devised various strategies to keep the mouth closed. Here are some of the top methods they employ:

Needle Injector Gun

A specialized needle injection tool can be used to inject an embalming chemical into the roof of the mouth. This immediately causes the mouth to clench shut. Chemicals like formaldehyde are used. The needle gun injects the solution with force to lock the jaw.

Suture Truss

A suture truss stitches the mouth closed from the inside. A curved needle threads through the upper and lower lips or gums. The mouth is then cinched shut by tying off the sutures. This serves like mortuary mouth braces to keep the lips together.

Mouth Former

A mouth former tool props the mouth open while embalming fluids are flushed in. It has a spring mechanism that allows the mouth to then be closed. The mouth former holds the desired position of the lips.

Dental Wires

Wires can be anchored onto the teeth to hold the mouth in position. The wires attach between the upper and lower teeth to keep the jaw shut. These may be permanent wires cinched tight or temporary wires to allow viewing.

Super Glue

Some funeral directors apply super glue or another adhesive inside the mouth to bond the lips together. This can be used in conjunction with other methods like sutures or wires. The glue helps seal the mouth and prevent leakage.

Chin Straps

Funeral staff may use straps under the chin and around the head to prevent the mouth from falling open. These are temporary measures for viewings and services. Chin straps are often paired with gluing or suturing to keep the mouth intact.

Packing Methods

Cotton, gauze, or plastic packing can be used inside the mouth to hold it closed. These are stuffed between the teeth and lips. Gravity helps hold the packing in place, so the deceased is positioned lying down. Packing prevents the mouth from popping open.

Needle Injector Gun

A specialized needle injection tool can be used to inject an embalming chemical into the roof of the mouth. This immediately causes the mouth to clench shut. Chemicals like formaldehyde are used. The needle gun injects the solution with force to lock the jaw.

Jaw Support

A strap or sling under the chin and jaw applies upward support to keep the mouth closed. This counteracts the weight of gravity trying to pull the jaw down. Jaw supports are temporary and used for viewing the deceased.

Plastic Mouth Former

Plastic mouth formers wedge the lips together to pose a natural expression. These molded plastic mouth openers are inserted between the gums or lips to hold the mouth in the desired position. They can be temporarily removed for services.

Needle and Thread

Suturing the lips together with a curved needle is an old embalming practice still in use. The needle pierces through the upper and lower lips to bind them shut. The thread is knotted inside the mouth. This closes the mouth for viewing.

Super Glue

Applying super glue or skin adhesive inside the mouth bonds the lips. This seals any gaps and hardens the mouth in a closed pose. It can be used with sutures or packing for extra hold. The glue keeps bodily fluids in.

Dental Adhesive

Dental adhesive pastes, resins, and cements can also be used to glue the mouth shut. These are molded between the lips or applied between the upper and lower teeth. The dental glue hardens to keep the jaw closed.

Keeping Fluids In

Sealing the mouth closed retains bodily fluids that may drain out. Some other techniques funeral directors use to prevent leakage include:

  • Cotton packed in the throat
  • Super absorbent powder inside the mouth
  • Sealing the nose and ear canals

These help absorb and contain any mouth or nasal drainage. Keeping fluids in maintains the dignity of the deceased for memorial services.

Positioning Techniques

Gravity can make the mouth drift open if the head is tilted back. To prevent this, the deceased is positioned lying flat or with the head slightly tilted down. This uses gravity to keep the mouth sealed. Some positioning tips include:

  • Lie the body flat before rigor mortis
  • Keep the chin tilted down
  • Elevate the shoulders slightly
  • Packed throat helps prevent drainage

Proper positioning complements the mouth closure method. Funeral directors carefully pose the head and neck area for the best mouth closure.

Long-Term Techniques

For long-term burial, extra measures are taken to permanently keep the mouth sealed. These include:

  • Needle injection into the roof of mouth
  • Wires anchored to the teeth
  • Armatures wired into the jaw
  • Suturing through the gums

These techniques permanently bind the jaw shut. They prevent future opening of the mouth as the body decomposes underground. This preserves a dignified burial.

Natural Looking Results

Cosmetics like wax and restorative treatments create a natural mouth appearance:

  • Cotton inside helps shape the mouth
  • Wax fills gaps between lips
  • Moisturizers prevent cracking
  • Lip color restores lifelike appearance

The goal is to have the mouth look normal for grieving family and friends. Makeup artistry hides any signs of closure methods.


Funeral homes have many strategies to keep the mouth closed after death. Securing the mouth preserves dignity and peace for memorial services. Rigor mortis makes it challenging to close initially. Tools like needle injectors, mouth formers, wires, sutures, packing, and adhesives allow the lips to stay shut. Gravity’s effects are counteracted by proper positioning. Cosmetics are added so the mouth appears natural. With these methods, funeral homes can beautifully honor the deceased.