What Is Tongue Thrusting?
Tongue thrusting is the habit of pushing your tongue forward between the upper and lower teeth when you swallow. The proper positioning for the tongue is for the tip to push against the gum above the back of your upper front teeth.
Tongue thrust appears when the tongue presses forward too far in the mouth, resulting in an abnormal orthodontic condition called an “open bite.”
The condition is most common in children. It has a myriad of causes, including poor swallowing habits, allergies, and tongue-tie.
Enlarged Tonsills and Thumb sucking are the most common causes of Tongue Thrust
Tongue thrust in babies
In babies who are breastfed or bottle-fed, tongue thrust is normal. As the child gets older, their swallowing and speaking pattern should evolve.
However, some types of bottle nipples — and prolonged use of a bottle — can lead to an abnormal tongue thrust that lasts past the infant stage and into early childhood.
There are several other potential causes for tongue thrust that begin in infancy. Some of these include:
- long-term sucking habits that influence the tongue’s movement, like sucking of the thumb, fingers, or tongue
- allergies accompanied by chronically swollen tonsils or adenoids
- tongue-tie, where the band of tissue beneath the tongue is tight or short
- a swallowing pattern known as reverse swallow
In children, a tongue thrust is apparent when there’s too much forward movement of the tongue during swallowing and speaking. Most often, the tongue tends to push forward in the mouth. Sometimes the tongue presses into the back of the teeth.
Tongue thrust has a number of telltale signs that manifest in children who have developed the pattern. These can include:
- Tongue is visible between the teeth. The tip of the tongue sticks out between the teeth, whether the child is resting, swallowing, or speaking.
- Mouth breathing.
- Inability to close the lips completely. This could be due to a structural abnormality or habit.
- Open bite. This occurs when the front teeth don’t meet when the teeth are closed.
- Slow, fast, or messy eating.
- Speech impediment. Lisping of s and z sounds is common.
Why Is Tongue Thrusting Bad?
The tongue is a very powerful muscle – one that’s strong enough to push teeth out of their natural position. This bad swallowing habit is even more apparent when you realize that the average human swallows about 2,000 times a day! Over time, tongue thrusting can cause an open bite. This is when only the back teeth will come together during a bite – the front teeth won’t actually touch.
Our Tongue Thrust Exercise
For fixing this bad habit, we recommend this following exercise:
- First, place a small orthodontic rubber band on the tip of your tongue.
- Press the tip of your tongue against the gum in the roof of your mouth that’s right behind your upper front teeth.
- Bite your teeth together in your regular bite; don’t bite forward.
- Keep your lips apart.
- Swallow. Make sure not to let your lips close or your teeth come apart. Also, please don’t panic if you accidentally swallow a rubber band – it will pass through your system without any problems.
Because you have a habit of pushing your tongue forward when you swallow, this exercise may be a little difficult to do in the beginning. However, with enough practice, it’s really not as hard as it may seem to be. We recommend doing two sets of 30 swallows every day, preferably once in the morning and again in the evening. While success will take some effort, when you manage to stop your tongue thrusting, your braces will be able to come off sooner and your teeth will stay in perfect alignment.