Tongue thrusting is a motion caused by a muscular imbalance that leads to the tongue pressing too far forward in the mouth when speaking, swallowing, or when the tongue is at rest. Our Langley orthodontists explain why, left untreated, this condition can result in bite issues and tooth misalignments.
What is tongue thrust?
Tongue thrusting, reverse swallowing or immature swallow is a condition characterized by the tongue protruding through the front teeth when the child or adult is talking, swallowing, and even when the tongue is at rest. This potentially problematic tongue positioning stems from an orofacial muscular imbalance.
For infants who are still breast or bottle-fed tongue thrust is a normal motion. However, infants should begin to outgrow tongue thrusting at about 6 months old as their swallowing and speech patterns mature. When tongue thrusting stops naturally in babies, it is frequently considered to be an indication that it's time to begin the introduction of solid foods.
If tongue thrusting continues after the age of four it may begin to cause orthodontic issues such as an open bite. An open bite is when the front teeth do not meet when the mouth is closed.
The early diagnosis and treatment of problems caused by tongue thrust can help to prevent more severe issues from developing. This is why an orthodontic evaluation can be beneficial, even for very young children.
Why is tongue thrusting a problem?
The average person will swallow 1,200 - 2,000 times a day, and during each swallow, the tongue will exert between 1 - 6 pounds of pressure on the teeth and surrounding oral structures. Over time, this repeated pressure can result in tooth misalignments and bite issues. Left untreated tongue thrusting can have serious consequences for your child's smile as it develops.
Can tongue thrusting be treated or prevented?
Whether you are wondering how to treat or prevent your child's dental issues caused by tongue thrust, or issues that you are experiencing due to tongue thrusting, there are two main types of treatment:
- A permanent dental appliance (one that can only be removed or adjusted by an orthodontist or dentist) or a removable night guard can be used to help prevent tongue thrusting from occurring. These appliances work by creating a physical barrier that makes tongue thrusting more difficult or mildly uncomfortable for the patient, which can help to reverse the habit.
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy
- Orofacial myofunctional therapy can be used to re-train the muscles associated with swallowing and prevent tongue thrusting.