Tongue thrust (also called reverse swallowing or immature swallow) can cause serious orthodontic problems if left unaddressed, but what exactly is it? Today our Coquitlam orthodontist explains a little about tongue thrusting and why treatment is important.
What is tongue thrust?
Tongue thrust is a muscular imbalance of the mouth and face in which the tongue protrudes through the front teeth when talking, swallowing, and sometimes even when the tongue is at rest.
While tongue thrust is perfectly normal in infants, they should begin to grow out of it at around 6 months of age. When tongue thrust stops in babies, it's often considered an appropriate time to begin introducing solid foods.
It is when tongue thrust continues past the age of 4 that it can begin to cause your child some serious orthodontic problems. Which is one of the reasons why even young children can benefit from orthodontic evaluation at an early age.
Why is tongue thrust a problem?
If left untreated tongue thrust can have serious consequences your child's teeth and mouth. On average, a person will swallow 1,200 - 2,000 times a day. During each swallow, the tongue will exert between 1 - 6 pounds of pressure on the surrounding oral structures. Understandably, this continuous pressure on the teeth can cause serious tooth misalignment and bite issues.
What is the treatment for tongue thrust?
Tongue thrust can be treated in couple of different ways:
Night Guards & Dental Appliances
- A nightguard or a more permanent dental appliance that can only be removed or adjusted by an orthodontist or dentist can be placed. This creates a physical barrier that can make tongue thrusting more difficult or uncomfortable for the patient, and thereby eventually reverses the habit.
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy
- Another effective way to treat tongue thrust is through orofacial myofunctional therapy which can be used to re-train the muscles associated with swallowing by changing the swallowing pattern.