Tongue thrusting (also sometimes called immature swallow or reverse swallowing) is an orofacial muscular imbalance that causes the tongue to protrude through the anterior incisors during swallowing, speech, and sometimes when the tongue is at rest. If left unaddressed, it can cause serious orthodontic problems.
Tongue thrusting is normal in babies until about 6 months of age. By this point, most babies grow out of it, and it is considered an indicator that they’re ready to start eating baby food.
If tongue thrusting carries on beyond the age of 4, however it may cause serious orthodontic problems. This is one of the reasons that it's important that children are evaluated by an orthodontist at an early age.
On average, a person swallows 1,200 - 2,000 times per day, and each swallow places about 4 pounds of pressure on the inside of the mouth. This pressure, combined with tongue thrusting, can force the teeth out of alignment.
Those who tongue thrust can suffer from a variety of orthodontic problems. In fact, if tongue thrusting is not addressed, it might even cause dental and orthodontic issues to relapse after treatment.
Tongue Thrust Treatment
Fortunately, tongue thrust is treatable in a couple of different ways. A dental appliance or night guard can be used to create a physical barrier that makes tongue thrusting more difficult or uncomfortable for the patient.
As an alternative, the patient can undergo orofacial myofunctional therapy. This therapy is designed to re-train the muscles associated with swallowing by changing the swallowing pattern.