A tongue thrust is the improper placement and function of the tongue during swallowing. When swallowing, or at rest, the tongue thrusts in between, forward, or sideways against the teeth rather than lifting up into the roof of the mouth (palate). A tongue thrust is also referred to as an “incorrect resting posture and swallowing pattern” and is the most common orofacial myofunctional disorder. An orofacial myofunctional disorder involves incorrect patterns of muscle function and incorrect habits involving the tongue, lips, and jaws.
This pattern may negatively impact dental and facial growth patterns, particularly dental eruption patterns and alignment of the teeth and jaws. Research has shown that the consistent pressure from the tongue posture against the teeth is more influential in malocclusions (misalignment of the teeth) than the intermittent pressures from swallowing. These constant pressures of the tongue against the teeth at rest can slow orthodontic treatment and undermine the stability of orthodontic correction. Speech patterns may also become distorted or misarticulated due to the low and forward positioning of the tongue.
Common signs and symptoms of an incorrect resting posture and swallowing pattern include:
• Frequent mouth breathing in the absence of allergies or nasal congestion
• Frequent open lips resting posture
• Tongue resting posture is forward between the upper and lower teeth
• Lips are often dry, chapped, and cracked from excessive licking or open lips posture
• Lips squeeze and chin has a dimpled appearance during a swallow
• The tongue comes forward to meet the utensil or cup
• Chewing with lips apart
• Tongue visibly moves forward when chewing
• Noisy chewing and swallowing (smacking and gulping)
• Messy eating
• Food is frequently washed down with liquid
• The tongue protrudes between or against the upper/lower front teeth when forming /t/, /d/, /n/, /s/, /z/, /l/, /ch/, /sh/ or /j/
If you or your child has any of these common signs an evaluation may be beneficial. It is important to treat the causes to poor dental and facial development early to promote the proper oral muscle patterns of breathing, chewing, and speaking.
Children as young as 4 or 5 years old may benefit from an evaluation to determine if any preventative steps may be of benefit. A modified orofacial myofunctional therapy program is highly effective for younger children. Children of 7 or 8 years of age are often ready for the full Orofacial Rest Posture Therapy program.
Changing habits take commitment, discipline, and effort. The therapy programs are specifically tailored to meet the needs of each patient. For children, parental supervision and participation are necessary in helping children attain their therapy goals.
Visit us today and begin the journey of establishing healthy oral muscle patterns.