Tongue Thrust

Tongue Thrust

Tongue thrust refers to an abnormal swallowing pattern which results from a low resting tongue posture.  This can cause several conditions in the mouth, such as an open bite, dental crowding, tipping/flaring of the teeth and relapsed orthodontics.  In an ideal situation, the entire  tongue should rest against the top of the mouth (palate).  In this position the tongue serves as a natural expander for the palate during craniofacial development in children and adolescents. In conjunction with the lips (when closed and toned) and cheeks, the 2 opposing forces help keep teeth in alignment.  If a tongue thrust is not treated, the tongue habitually rests against the front teeth exerting slight pressure against the teeth.  During every swallow, instead of the tongue moving upward against the palate like it is supposed to, the tongue pushes against the teeth, therefore pushing the jaw and teeth forward and out of alignment.

Tongue Thrust Warning Signs

Tongue Thrust is a constant pressure of the tongue against the teeth and pushes your teeth out of alignment. Pressure is also exerted while swallowing. This habit is involuntary and is often hard to break.

  • Frequent Open Mouth Resting Position

  • Mouth Breathing

  • Messy & Loud Eating

  • Lips Often Cracked or Chapped

  • Jaw or Jaw Joint Pain

  • Protruding Teeth

  • Open Bite

Causes of Tongue Thrust

Although there are a number of reasons a tongue thrust exists, the 3 most common causes are below:

  • Tongue Tie

    A tongue tie is when the tongue is tethered to the floor of the mouth.  This can occur in the front portion of the tongue (anterior tie) or in the back part of the tongue (posterior tie).  When the tongue is “tied” to the floor of the mouth, it cannot suction to the palate thus causing the tongue to push forward when swallowing.  It also contributes to low tongue posture during rest. 

  • Oral Habits

    Habits such as thumb sucking, nail/lip/cheek biting, external objects (pens, fingers), extensive pacifier use can create a habitual resting position of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, which results in a dysfunctional swallow.

  • Mouth breathing

    This habit is generally in conjunction with a tongue thrust,  whether it be from nasal allergies, tongue tie, narrow nasal passages, deviated septum, inflamed nasal turbinates or enlarged tonsils/adenoids.

Myofunctional Therapy and Tongue Thrust

A myofunctional therapist can help identify what the underlying cause is of your tongue thrust. They can help you get to the appropriate professionals when a tongue tie or nasal blockage is present.  Once the underlying cause is discovered and treated, it is important to carry out myofunctional therapy in order to correct the function of the tongue.  The tongue and facial muscles have muscle memory and will continue to function as they have in the past unless they are retrained.  Myofunctional therapy uses different exercises to retrain, strengthen, and coordinate the muscles of the tongue, lips, cheeks and throat to function properly.

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