Do you notice that your child’s tongue comes in between the upper and lower teeth when they are swallowing food? Seems like they are having a tongue thrust.
If you breastfeed your child then it is normal for their tongue to come forward.
As they grow older, it goes away on its own when they develop swallowing patterns.
However, if it continues till they have permanent teeth, then it can result in an open bite.
This article discusses how to treat tongue thrust.
Keep reading below to know what you can do to make sure your baby discontinues it after they grow older.
How Tongue Thrust in Babies Develops?
The tongue has a proper position while swallowing and speaking.
The tip of the tongue pushes against the gum.
And it is above the back of the teeth at the front in the upper jaw.
However, tongue thrusting is normal in kids while breastfeeding and even during bottle feeding.
In fact, it is beneficial for them when they do not develop swallowing reflexes.
It prevents them from choking.
Therefore, if they have it for the first 5 to 6 months, then it is a normal reflex.
Though if your child keeps using the pacifiers and feeding bottles then it can persist beyond the infant stage.
Hence, they may have it even in their early childhood, if not treated it can continue till adulthood.
The tongue has a forward movement while speaking, swallowing, eating and drinking.
Or it presses at the back of the teeth.
Though pacifier and feeding is not the only reason behind thrusting.
It can also occur because of your child’s habits such as finger and thumb sucking.
Your baby can stop thumb sucking on their own as they make sense of their world and relieve anxiety while doing so.
However, a few may continue this habit even when they are toddlers causing their tongue to thrust.
Furthermore, they may have a condition, tongue tie.
This is when the tissue band underneath their tongue is shorter in size and tight.
Other than that they may have allergies because of tonsils and adenoids.
Reverse swallow is a swallowing pattern that can cause their tongue to come forward.
Due to this, there can be issues with the mouth, tongue and teeth.
Such as open bite speech impediments or breathing through the mouth.
Want to know about the effects of tongue thrusting? Find out below!
Consequences and Signs of Tongue Thrust
The tongue is extremely powerful.
It can even move your permanent teeth out of their position.
Hence, if this muscle thrusts, it can cause several problems with your oral health and otherwise.
It is more apparent during swallowing because a human swallows about 2000 times per day.
Hence, whenever your child swallows, speaks and is even resting, their tongue thrusts forward and sticks between teeth.
Hence, you can see it sticking out.
Though it may lose on its own and that is usually a clue for mothers that it is time for weaning your child.
As the tongue continues to thrust, it can cause an open bite.
The front upper teeth are slant hence, they do not meet the lower front teeth when your child closes their mouth.
Since their teeth do not touch then there is a chance that their lips may not completely close either.
Though this can result from a structural abnormality or due to a habit.
Furthermore, they will have speech impediments such as lisping.
They may develop a lisp especially while pronouncing the “z” and “s” sounds.
They may get this condition because of the presence of allergies and enlarged tonsils.
Because their tongue thrusts, they may start breathing from their mouth.
The allergies cause their throat cavity to become narrower or constrict.
Hence, when the tongue moves forward it actually makes breathing easier.
Additionally, they may have prolonged issues while sucking and chewing solid foods properly.
This makes their eating slow and messy. Or it could be the opposite fast and messy.
Since the teeth are misaligned and displaced, they will require orthodontic treatment options such as braces to correct them.
You can get a diagnosis from several doctors to check if your child has the condition.
Let’s read more about that below!
Diagnosing The Condition
A general practitioner, a pediatrician, dentist, a speech therapist or speech-language pathologist and an orthodontist can all diagnose this condition.
Take your baby to a pediatrician and they will probably refer them to other specialists as well so that your child gets proper treatment.
They will notice the way your child swallows and speaks.
Whether their tongue comes forward when they hold your bottom lip down to see where you put your tongue when you are swallowing the saliva.
Once they identify the placement of your tongue, they may suggest treatments or recommend you to other doctors.
You will not need any tests but they will simply examine your child’s condition.
Next, a specialist will check their condition and proceed with treatments.
- Speech-language pathologist
- ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist
Their speech therapist will work with them to correct their lisp so that they can speak properly.
Furthermore, an orthodontist will check their teeth and use teeth braces to correct the misalignment.
These specialists will collectively look into their condition.
Moreover, they will devise strategies to improve the condition of your child.
They help to reduce their swallowing, chewing and speaking problems.
These not only affect their dental health but also their social well-being.
Therefore, they correct the underlying problems such as an open bite, gap in the teeth, or a lisp.
Then, exercises for this condition help to reduce it over time.
So what do they do to treat these symptoms of tongue thrusting?
Tongue Thrust Treatment
Correcting Open Bite
If your child has an open bite, then their dentist will begin to treat it by inserting a tongue crib.
This orthodontic device goes onto the roof of their mouth.
It helps to correct the thrust in children.
However, it is not suitable for adults.
Though, adults can get misaligned teeth.
Hence, an orthodontist will help treat that with braces or Invisalign.
Another treatment for adults is the orofacial myology that corrects the placement of the lips, tongue and jaw for this orofacial myofunctional disorder.
This is a therapy that helps to correct your child’s swallowing habits.
Even if you or your child get treatment for an open bite, you should follow up with therapy.
Otherwise, the results will not be long-lasting.
Furthermore, this therapy will only succeed if you will first address your breathing problems.
Nasal issues and allergies will cause you to breathe using your mouth.
Hence, this will only subside when you follow this chain of therapies and treatments.
Your child can begin speech therapy by the time they are eight years old.
These therapies by a speech therapist will last for about 3 to 5 months.
Moreover, they will ask you t follow up every 4 to 6 months.
Learning how to rest their mouth as well as swallowing saliva is part of the treatment.
Moreover, it will correct their lisp so that they can speak properly in social situations.
Also, their therapist will give exercises and activities to continue back at home.
Ensure that your child does not skip them because that is how the speech therapy will be successful.
You can also try to fix this habit on your own with your doctor’s guidance.
However, do not try this on your child, only do this if you suffer due to this habit.
Do the following exercise to see the changes:
- Take an orthodontic rubber band and place it right on the tip of your tongue.
- Now press this tip against the gums found on the palate right behind your upper front teeth.
- Now start biting your teeth, however, make sure that it is not a forward bite but a regular one.
- Next, do not let your lips meet, rather keep them apart.
- Now keep swallowing while keeping your lips apart and your teeth in a bite.
It is okay if you end up swallowing the rubber band as it is harmless and it will only pass through the system.
Do this two times a day with 30 swallows each time.
Correcting your thrust with this exercise also helps in treating your teeth with braces as they will take lesser time to align your teeth.
Do Adults Have It Too?
Usually, adults have a tongue thrust due to chronic swelling of the adenoids or certain allergies.
Though if this habit is left untreated in childhood, then it will progress till you do not treat it.
It can also develop due to stress.
The symptoms for adults are usually similar to those that occur in children with some variation.
For instance, you may thrust your tongue while you are sleeping but will not be a messy eater like children.
If the thrusting has continued well into adulthood then all these years it may have also shaped your face.
Hence, you may have an elongated face, with a long tongue and being unable to close your mouth.
Moreover, the open bite will not let you eat or chew properly using your front teeth.
Foods like lettuce can easily slip through the gaps in between them.
Hence, biting can be uncomfortable.
Therefore, adults also require the same treatment as children but they cannot get a tongue crib.
Consult your orthodontist to align your teeth and cure this condition.
It is much better to treat tongue thrust in babies rather than letting it proceed to change appearance when they are adults.
Hence, when you notice your child’s tongue is usually coming forward even after they no longer use pacifiers, then it is time to visit your doctor.