Tongue thrusting is when your tongue is pushed too far forward in the mouth. It causes the bite and the teeth to become disfigured. It is a disorder where dysfunctional muscle-based patterns occur within the mouth. When a child suffers from this tongue thrusting, it means that they often press their tongue too far forward within the mouth. In fact, this is a habitual condition that results in the tongue going against the lips to seal the mouth during swallowing. This often results in oral health issues, with the main one being an orthodontic-based condition referred to as an “open bite”.
Tongue thrusting is known by many names. The most common are “immature swallowing” and “reverse swallowing”. While normal for infants, a mature swallow should occur around the age of 6 months. Continue reading to learn more about this oral health issue.
Why is Tongue Thrusting a Problem?
Tongue thrusting may seem like a simple issue that will not cause any complications; however, this is not the case. When a child engages in this habit, it places a lot of pressure on the upper teeth in the front of the mouth. In turn, this could result in the teeth being pushed completely out of alignment with the other teeth within the mouth.
In addition to this, tongue thrusting results in the tongue becoming misplaced during the swallowing process.
Swallowing results in about 4 pounds of pressure. If the tongue is not in the correct position during the swallowing process, the 4 pounds of pressure will go against the teeth.
Misalignment of the teeth, abnormal jaw movements, abnormal tongue movements, and the reversal of any previous orthodontic treatment may be reversed when a child engages in tongue thrusting past the age of 6 months old.
Dentists and those that specialize in orthodontics are highly concerned about the direct effect of the tongue and the muscles in the face during tongue thrusting on the occlusion of the mouth – or, how the teeth are situated in terms of fitting together.
It is not unusual for a malocclusion or a complete misalignment to occur. If you feel as if your child has this issue, it is best to set up an appointment with a pediatric dentist. They will review the oral health effect of the issue and will likely bring in a speech pathologist as part of the care team for your child.
Those that specialize in medicine and the dental industry have identified several potential causes for tongue thrusting. The following outlines the possible culprits that have currently been identified:
- Children who have bad oral-based habits – such as sucking their thumb – are more likely to develop the tongue thrusting habit.
- Developmental complications
- Neurological Problems
- A tongue that is larger than normal for the mouth size
- If a child has been bottle-fed or breast-fed past the age of 18 months, they are more likely to develop a case of tongue thrust.
- If the motion of the tongue experiences limitations due to the child being tongue-tied, they may develop this oral health condition.
- Allergies that result in swollen tonsils
- Infections of the Upper Respiratory System
- Breathing through the mouth
Recognizing Tongue Thrusting
It may be a bit challenging to identify a tong thrust issue; however, it is possible. In most cases, a dental or a medical professional will recognize this habit. As a parent, it is important that you know the signs. Below, the most common characteristics associated with tongue thrusting will be outlined. If you recognize any of these with your child, you should make an appointment with a pediatric dentist as soon as possible to have your child evaluated:
- You may find that your child breathes out of their mouth constantly. While it is normal for this to happen if your child experiences allergies or any type of nasal congestion, it is not considered to be “normal” under everyday circumstances.
- Does it appear that your child is unable to completely close their mouth? Does it look as if they are purposely keeping it open out of habit or because the teeth seem to be in the way? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, tongue thrusting could be the culprit.
- If there is a gap situated between the top and the bottom of the front teeth, it could be a result of tongue thrusting. This is often referred to as an “open bite”.
- If your child is saying certain sounds inaccurately or seems to have a lisp, it could be because they engage in the tongue thrusting action.
- The most obvious sign of tongue thrusting is when the tongue protrudes through the front teeth.
To properly correct the issue of tongue thrusting, a pediatric dentist and a speech pathologist will work with your child and prescribe various types of exercises that will help normalize the swallowing pattern.
This will also assist in correcting any speech-related complications. If dental work is required to correct a misalignment or to correct any other issues, the pediatric dentist will work closely with you to outline the procedures needed and the timeline in which those procedures will take place.
We here at Richmond Pediatric Dentistry are standing by to assist you and your child with any tongue thrusting problems.
We will work with you to correct any effects associated with this problem. Your child’s plan will be completely customized for them and effective therapy will start immediately. You will start to see a noticeable change in your child’s habit in just a matter of a month or two – depending on the severity of the habit.
We will provide you with comprehensive information that you may use to exercise your child at home to help them along in their process.
We only want what is best for your child and to optimize their dental health. For more information on tongue thrusting and its effects, you may contact us today by calling the following number: 765-966-7602