Tongue thrusting happens when the natural position of the tongue is too far forward in the mouth. Tongue thrusting causes the tongue to press on the front teeth, or between the rows of top and bottom front teeth, which can cause problems with bite, teeth alignment, and even jaw discomfort.
Although tongue thrusting can happen in both children and adults, it’s most damaging in childhood when the bones and teeth are still forming. When tongue thrusting persists in childhood, it can have long-lasting impacts.
What are the potential impacts of tongue thrusting, and how is this condition treated?
Tongue Thrusting Can Cause an Open Bite
With repeated pressure of the tongue against the front teeth, especially during the developmental years, tongue thrusting can cause the teeth to move forward and outward.
When this happens, instead of the teeth fitting together correctly when the jaw is closed, a space between the upper and lower rows of teeth develop. This is what’s called an open bite.
An open bite can make it difficult to close the mouth and lips all the way when the jaw is at rest. Open bites impact appearance by making the lips protrude or making the front teeth stick out . An open bite can also make it more difficult to bite and chew and causes unusual wear on the teeth.
Speech May Be Affected`
Since tongue thrusting can ultimately change the position of the teeth and affect how the teeth fit together, it can cause speech to be affected. People with an open bite as the result of tongue thrusting tend to have problems pronouncing words with the letters s, k, and t, as well as other consonant sounds .
These speech issues can affect the confidence of both adults and children, and if tongue thrusting or the resulting bite abnormalities are not corrected, can persist. Treating tongue thrusting can make it easier to speak and properly pronounce words.
Treatment Options for Tongue Thrusting
What are the treatment options for tongue thrusting?
For children that have a tongue thrusting habit that is affecting their bite and quality of life, early intervention can help prevent permanent bite issues. There are appliances that can help reposition the tongue and help your child break the habit of tongue thrusting.
However, if an open bite has developed, orthodontics will likely be necessary to reposition the teeth and correct the bite to relieve the symptoms of tongue thrusting. In some cases, certain exercises or physical therapy can also help reduce tongue thrusting .
Treatment will depend on the age of intervention, any bite issues that have developed, and if the tongue thrusting continues to be a habit.
Do You or Your Child Suffer from Tongue Thrusting?
Tongue thrusting should never be overlooked, as it can cause long-term issues with confidence, speech, and teeth alignment. Do you or your child suffer from tongue thrusting? If so, don’t wait to see an experienced dentist to help you treat this condition!