Tongue Thrusting & Your Child's Dental Health

Tongue Thrusting & Your Child's Dental Health

Tongue thrust is a muscular imbalance that leads to the tongue pressing too far forward in the mouth during speech, swallowing, or sometimes even when the tongue is at rest. Our orthodontists explain why, left untreated, this condition can result in bite issues, tooth misalignments or even a lisp. 

What Tongue Thrust Is

Tongue thrusting (also called 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. In some cases this tongue positioning stems from an orofacial muscular imbalance.

For infants who are still breast or bottle-fed tongue thrust is a normal action. However, infants should begin to outgrow tongue thrusting at about 6 months old as their swallowing and speaking patterns begin to mature. When tongue thrusting stops naturally in babies, it is often considered to be an indication that it's time to begin the introduction of solid foods into the child's diet.

When tongue thrusting continues after the age of 4 it can 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 detection and treatment of conditions 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?

On average a 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 months and years, this continuous pressure can result in noticeable tooth misalignment and bite issues. When left untreated tongue thrusting can have serious consequences for your child's smile.

How is tongue thrust treated?

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:

Dental Appliances

  • 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 thrust. These appliances work by creating a physical barrier that makes tongue thrusting more difficult or mildly uncomfortable for the patient, helping to reverses the habit.

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

  • In some cases orofacial myofunctional therapy is used to re-train the muscles associated with swallowing and prevent tongue thrusting.  

Are you concerned that your child may be developing oral health problems due to tongue thrusting? Contact Ridge Meadows Orthodontics today to book a consultation.

Book your first orthodontic consultation today at myOrthodontist Maple Ridge.