Orthodontic issues like overcrowded teeth, spaced teeth, crooked teeth, and biting problems can be quite the headache. There are countless reasons behind these issues, including jaw size, alignments, oral habits, traumas, or injuries. One major culprit? You guessed it – tongue thrusting.
Applying excessive pressure with your thumb or tongue can wreak havoc on your teeth alignment and disrupt their development. Children often push their tongues against their teeth while their jaws and bones are still growing, leading to issues like open bites and gaps later in life.
So, what exactly is tongue thrusting? We know it affects children, but can adults be impacted too? What causes it, and what are the signs? Can it be corrected? How can we stop tongue thrusting, and are there any home remedies? This blog will answer all your questions, so let’s dive in!
- 1 What Is Tongue Thrusting?
- 2 Tongue Thrusting in Adults
- 3 Types of Tongue Thrusting
- 4 Are Tongue Thrusts Common?
- 5 What Causes Tongue Thrusting?
- 6 Can Tongue Thrusting Result In Other Severe Conditions?
- 7 Probability of Tongue Thrusting Correction
- 8 How To Stop Tongue Thrusting?
- 9 How To Stop Tongue Thrusting With Home Remedies?
- 10 How To Stop Tongue Thrusting With Therapies
- 11 Conclusion
What Is Tongue Thrusting?
Tongue thrusting is simply the habit of putting the tongue in the wrong position when you swallow. It can be too far forward. Or it can push too much to the sides. Every 24 hours, you probably swallow as high as 1200-2000 times. Every time, with every swallow, you put roughly four pounds of pressure.
This is a constant pressure you keep exercising through your tongue. Eventually, you will find teeth and arches going out of alignment because of this. Besides putting pressure during swallowing, you tend to thrust your tongue against your teeth when nervous. It’s an involuntary subconscious habit that’s hard to rectify.
Tongue Thrusting in Adults
Are you an adult struggling with tongue thrusting? Chances are, you may have some lingering childhood habits that have not been addressed. Furthermore, chronic allergies or inflammation of the adenoids and tonsils can contribute to tongue-thrusting issues. Stress can also be a significant factor in this condition.
Additionally, an elongated facial structure or appearance can cause tongue thrusting. These factors may make it difficult for you to close your mouth when swallowing.
It’s also important to examine if you have a larger-than-normal tongue, as it can unknowingly put constant pressure on your teeth. Open bites can also lead to eating difficulties, as your front teeth may not meet properly, making biting uncomfortable.
Moreover, a study by the Journal of Oral Biosciences delves into the impact of tongue pressure during swallowing. While there is a consistent pressure maintained throughout swallowing, sensory feedback can adjust it between the front and back sections of the tongue, ensuring efficient food propulsion within the oral cavity.
Types of Tongue Thrusting
Anterior Open Bite
Here the lips don’t close properly. Because the person has an open mouth, the tongue protrudes beyond the lips, exerting force on teeth.
Here, upper incisors are often protruded, while the lower lip pulls the lower incisors. This is coupled with a strong muscle of the chin.
Bilateral And Unilateral Thrust
Bilateral thrust is when the anterior bite is closed. But posterior teeth, from molars to bicuspids, open on both sides. This is often the most difficult to treat. In unilateral thrust, the bite will open on either side.
Bilateral Anterior Open Bite
This often occurs due to a bigger tongue. Except for molars, no other teeth close perfectly, leading to open bites on both sides.
Closed Bite Thrust
Here, you will find both lower and upper teeth flared out and going apart. It often leads to double protrusion.
Are Tongue Thrusts Common?
We all know tongue thrusts are very common in children. The literature says, among the 5-8-year-old age group, nearly 67-95% exhibit tongue thrust. That is the reason why so many children exhibit signs of speech problems. On the other hand, in the USA, as many as 20-80% of orthodontic patients have some or the other form of tongue thrust.
In fact, the Journal of Dental Research, Dental Clinics explains how tongue thrusting is a common occurrence. Thus, dental practitioners should look for evidence of tongue thrust swallowing. No matter which age group or stage a patient belongs to.
What Causes Tongue Thrusting?
Usually, tongue-thrusting habits manifest from childhood. These causes primarily involve:
- Narrow palate (upper jaw bone)
- Enlarged tonsils
- Using bottles or pacifiers after 4 to 5 years of age
- Thumb sucking
- Allergies or congestion
- Tongue tie
- Using a sippy cup after 4 to 5 years of age
Speaking of adult age, it can happen due to:
- Stress and anxiety. It usually happens while sleeping. Your mouth is mostly wide open, and your tongue is free from control. This kind of sleeping behavior induces stress and anxiety.
- A hereditary factor that runs in your family. It also includes genetically bigger tongues.
Can Tongue Thrusting Result In Other Severe Conditions?
Yes. If you don’t treat tongue thrusting on time, it can lead to consequences. One of the prime repercussions of untreated tongue thrusting is malformed teeth. When you keep pushing the back of your teeth with your tongue, it forces your front teeth to move outward. This further leads to gaps and open bites for the middle top and bottom teeth.
Additionally, untreated tongue thrusting can also affect your speech for good. You may show signs of lisping over certain sounds and cause your tongue to protrude between teeth. That’s why the International Journal of Advanced Research reveals why it’s so important to identify and treat tongue thrusting habits at an early age and prevent any chances of complications like malocclusions.
Probability of Tongue Thrusting Correction
It is seen that tongue thrusting can be corrected 75% of the time. While for 20% of the time, the treatment can suffer due to a lack of commitment or cooperation. The remaining 5% of the failures are mostly due to severe complications in oral health. In most cases, orthodontists go for tongue therapy during orthodontic treatment.
How To Stop Tongue Thrusting?
Now that we have covered almost everything about tongue thrusting, now it’s time to answer the vital question: How to stop tongue thrusting? Here are a few techniques orthodontists use to cure tongue thrust.
They will first assess your swallowing pattern. They will hold down your bottom lip to observe how you bite and swallow. This is to find out where your tongue goes when you swallow. Else, orthodontists will shift to full treatment of tongue thrust.
Another way is to use a tongue crib. This is placed on the roof of your mouth to correct bites. Besides, since nasal allergy and breathing issues are common causes of tongue thrusting, you may have to cure them first.
How To Stop Tongue Thrusting With Home Remedies?
Not all types of tongue thrusting would need professional treatment. Here’s what you can do.
- Place a sugar-free candy at the tip of your tongue.
- Press the tip of your tongue against your mouth’s roof.
- Make sure to keep your teeth together. And your lips will be apart.
- Bite your teeth together. But your lips will be in the same position.
- Try swallowing while keeping teeth together and lips apart.
This method is called mewing. Repeating this process daily will help correct swallowing concerns and train your tongue muscles.
How To Stop Tongue Thrusting With Therapies
If your tongue thrusting causes serious concerns, here are a few therapies your orthodontist will perform.
Tongue Thrust Speech Therapy
Tongue thrusting causes lisping and speech issues. Therefore it can help to go to speech pathologists. Speech therapies help rectify tongue postures and swallowing habits through myriad exercises. For children, this therapy will also help cure habits of thumb-sucking.
This therapy is known to give exceptional results. Myofunctional therapy treats all sorts of functional issues related to the tongue and face. It will help rectify the placement of lips, tongue, and jaw through many exercises to rectify breathing and swallowing habits. Here are some of them.
This involves holding a piece of cardboard between your lips. Hold it tightly for around 5 seconds. Repeat this a few times.
You can put your lips in the posture of whistling and hold like that. This will help improve cheek and perioral muscles.
Here, you have to snap your tongue down and make a clicking sound.
Reach nose and chin
You will have to use your tongue to touch your nose and chin. And then repeat this around 10 times.
Through this blog, we have covered all critical nuances of tongue thrusting. What they are, types, causes, signs, corrections, etc. Most importantly, we have found answers for stopping tongue thrusting. Tongue thrusting is not a rare issue. It mostly happens to children but can be seen in adults too. But what should bother is to leave tongue thrusting untreated. Ignoring can lead to a range of problems, from speech issues to gaps in teeth.
The good part is that curing tongue thrusting is not as hard as it looks. There are a variety of techniques, home remedies, and therapies to treat the causes and consequences of tongue thrusting. However, don’t go for any therapy or diagnosis blindly. Always consult your orthodontist first to understand the condition of your tongue thrusting. They will help you simplify your treatment and cure the problem in the fastest way possible.
Dr. Michael McDermott earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in both Chemistry and Biology from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. He followed his undergraduate degrees with a doctorate in dental surgery at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with highest distinction.
Dr. Mike then furthered his dental education by earning a masters and certificate in Orthodontics at the University of St. Louis in Missouri.