Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Many dentists and orthodontists that I work with refer clients to me that exhibit a tongue thrust. However, many parents or patients are unclear what that means for them. A tongue thrust is an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD), in which the tongue pushes against or between the teeth. Depending on the severity of the tongue thrust, this can occur at rest, when swallowing, and/or when speaking.
Here are some common signs of a tongue thrust:
Sitting with an open mouth resting position.
Teeth have been pushed outward, creating malocclusion such as an ‘open bite'.
Difficulty producing speech sounds such as s, z, t, d, n, l, r, sh, ch, or j.
The tongue pushes outward when swallowing.
Prolonged thumb/finger sucking or pacifier use (after the age of two).
Tethered oral tissues such as a tongue tie.
So why is this important? Orofacial development and function are affected. When the tongue pushes against the teeth, it creates constant pressure that causes the teeth to shift and move creating dental misalignment. If a tongue thrust is not resolved, it can affect growth of the facial structures.
A tongue thrust is treatable, but intervention varies depending on age. For young children, it is recommended to completely stop pacifier use or thumb sucking by the age of three. For older children (ages 7+) and adults, myofunctional therapy exercises are required daily to improve the strength, range of motion, and coordination of the tongue and other oral-motor structures.
A Speech-Language Pathologist with myofunctional training implements these exercises to achieve proper resting tongue posture, an appropriate swallow, and correct speech production. Myofunctional Therapists collaborate with Dentists and Orthodontists, who re-align the teeth with oral appliances.
Does a tongue thrust affect you or a family member? Contact Gillian today for a free initial consultation! Fill out the contact form at www.gilliangladstoneslp.com.