What is Tongue Thrust?
Tongue Thrust refers to the tongue pressing up against the teeth or between the teeth while swallowing. This pressing motion can occur on the front teeth or the sides of the back teeth. In a proper swallow pattern, the teeth and tongue should not come in contact with one another. It is normal for infants to have a tongue thrust swallow, but in proper development, this pattern is outgrown.
What's the Problem?
A tongue thrust can cause problems with the muscles and disc in the jaw (Temporal Mandibular Joint). On occasion it can affect speech, most commonly resulting in a lisp. A tongue thrust can also interfere with the correct pronunciation of sounds like "s," "j," "ch," "zh," and "sh."
A common myth is that tongue thrust (also known as reverse swallow pattern) can cause teeth to move out of place. Research has shown that the strong force exerted by the tongue during a swallow, does not have the consistent pressure needed to cause a misalignment of the teeth. Unfortunately, those who exhibit a tongue thrust, additionally will often keep their tongue in a low and forward position, up against the teeth for many hours of the day. This light and consistent pressure against the teeth is what can cause problems in the proper development of the teeth and jaw. Other signs to watch for are the lips frequently parted and breathing through the mouth. The lips may easily become chapped and cracked from frequent licking of the lips, and mouth sores may begin to develop.
The presence of a tongue thrust may indicate a more serious underlying health issue. A thorough assessment by an orofacial myofunctional therapist is recommended. When needed, referrals or recommendations to appropriate health professionals will be provided.