And How Do You Treat It?
Ideally, the tongue “at rest” is not really resting. The optimum position of the tongue is high in the mouth, with the tip resting behind the upper teeth, not against them. Even with swallowing, this position is maintained.
In children and adults with tongue thrust, however, the tongue is in a position that causes bite problems, tooth misalignment and even sleeping issues. If the tongue is lying flat in the mouth, the tendency is to push it upward and forward with each swallowing action. Since the average person swallows 600 times a day, that’s a lot of pressure on the front teeth, equivalent to wearing braces. Except these “braces” are making the teeth crooked, not straight! Even if a person doesn’t have the habit of keeping the tongue low in the mouth, a forward motion of the tongue during swallowing is not a healthy habit.
How is tongue thrust diagnosed? This is a condition that a dentist or a speech pathologist can easily recognize. In children, it can be a result of a long-standing thumb sucking habit that goes on well past toddlerhood. In adults, it can develop after dental work or even just a stressful event in life. It isn’t dangerous and it can be corrected, but the sooner the better.
For some children, an apparatus that makes thrusting the tongue forward an uncomfortable experience might be temporarily installed. Good oral hygiene is essential while this treatment is retraining the tongue, and parental involvement in the child’s dental care is strongly advised.
In an adult with the motivation to correct tongue thrust, a simple series of exercises or speech therapy sessions are advised. The tongue is a muscle, and while it can get into very bad habits, these habits can be broken. If the teeth are misaligned because of tongue thrust, orthodontic treatment using either conventional braces or Invisalign is essential. It is important, though, to get the tongue thrust issue solved before straightening the teeth, so the teeth stay fixed permanently.
If you have any suspicions that you or your child have developed tongue thrust, please let the staff at the Sacramento Dentistry Group know of your concerns. Tongue trust is easy to diagnose and not terribly difficult to treat. Let’s get your mouth in shape together and show that tongue of yours how to swallow properly!