Tongue Thrust in Kids: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment - pvpd

What is a Tongue Thrust and How to Fix it?

Having no proper oral regime can result in orthodontic problems such as bite misalignment, crowded teeth, and many more.

In addition, having some childhood habits can also result in complications such as tongue thrusting and thumb sucking.

It is a common issue in babies that can lead to prolonged oral problems. 

If you need to learn about what is tongue thrust and what are the available treatment options for this, you must read this blog.

At Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, the professionals are available 24/7 to help babies and parents in emergencies.

If your kid is facing something unusual with closing their mouth, book an appointment for their first free dental visit at PVPD.

Read: Overbite vs Normal Bite: Differences, Causes, and Treatment

What is Tongue Thrust?

Tongue thrust is an orofacial myofunctional disorder that is common in kids and adults as well. It is a habitual activity of pushing your tongue forward against the back of your teeth unintentionally.

This habit is called OMD (orofacial myofunctional disorder) because it affects the orofacial and oral muscles, which interfere with structural growth and development, specifically in kids. 

Persistent pressure on the teeth due to thrust tongue affects the alignment and development of teeth.

This can cause complications from basic activities such as talking, eating, and tongue positioning. 

Tongue thrust in kids:

Infants and babies on mother feed are prone to this disorder as they quickly change their tongue positioning during swallowing and feeding.

In addition, some types of bottles, nipples, and feeders come with the structure that causes tongue thrust in kids. 

The prolonged use of such feeding equipment can lead to abnormal tongue thrust and affect teeth alignment and development. Tongue thrust baby can occur due to several other potential causes that include:

  • Long term thumb sucking habits that influence tongue movement
  • Reverse swallowing pattern
  • Tongue tie
  • Allergies accompanied by swollen tonsils and more

What are the Potential Causes of Tongue Thrusting?

There is no age bracket to develop this habit from babies to adults.

It depends on several causes, such as:

  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Narrow palate
  • Allergies
  • Congestion
  • Thumb sucking
  • Using bottles and pacifiers
  • Sippy cups

It has many signs that manifest in kids and makes it easier for the orthodontist to recognize the issue. Significant signs and symptoms of tongue thrust include:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Inability or difficulty in closing the lips completely
  • The tongue is visible between the teeth. 
  • Open bite. 
  • Slow or messy eating behavior
  • Speech impairment

The disorder can occur at any stage of life. You must visit the dentist if your kid shows any of the abovementioned signs. If you are an adult with a similar issue, look deeply into the causes.

For adults, stress can be an additional factor. Tongue thrust in adults can result in symptoms such as elongated facial structure, open breathing, messy eating, and inability to close the mouth. 

Diagnosis and treatment

An orthodontist, a speech therapist, or a general physician can quickly evaluate the condition by gathering the necessary information on your kid’s feeding and orthodontic history.

The orthodontist examines the kid’s oral structure and assesses their speech sound production to understand better if it is tongue thrust. 

Some practitioners may evaluate the swallowing pattern of your kid and want to see where the tongue positions during swallowing.

A pediatrician may perform the initial evaluation and refer you to a speech-language pathologist.

So, parents must be ready for a thorough evaluation before diving into treatment options. 

You can treat this disorder with some exercises at home and using the tongue appliance.

Sometimes, the recommended treatment is orofacial myofunctional therapy, an ongoing therapy that aids by correcting the placements of jaws, lips, and tongue.

At-Home Exercise:

Having the proper therapy and treatment can be effective. But home exercises also help your kid change their tongue-thrusting habits.

Here we share a few steps that you can share with your kid:

  • Place a sugar candy on the tip of the tongue.
  • Press the end against the roof of your tongue.
  • Ensure that the tongue is pushing against the sweet. 
  • Bite the teeth together and keep your lips apart.
  • Swallow, but make sure you keep your teeth together and lips apart. 

Performing tongue thrusting exercises daily at home can be very effective. It helps the kids to be cautious while eating food and helps the subconscious memory to learn this new practice of swallowing the food. 

Can Braces Treat Tight Thrust?

Braces do not directly affect tongue thrusting, but they can help correct damaged bone due to this disorder. Moreover, braces and Invisalign can treat misalignment and other issues. 

One thing to notice is to start the treatment after the tongue-thrusting habit is broken; otherwise, it is useless.

Give up on this habit and then wear the braces for at least 6 months for better results. 

Wrapping up:

To summarize, tongue thrust is a chronic disorder that can be managed with effective therapies and some appliances.

Driving the swallowing habits in kids and adults can treat this quickly.

If you or your kids face difficulty closing the lips or swallowing the food, consult an orthodontist to share your concerns. 


What is tongue thrust in dentistry?

In dentistry, incorrect tongue replacement when swallowing refers to tongue thrust. It also refers to nervous thrusting as the patient subconsciously pushes the tongue against the teeth during normal oral activities. 

At what age should you correct a tongue thrust?

The best age to treat this disorder in kids is eight years when they are sensible and can perform oral exercise. Moreover, it also depends on the oral condition of the kids. 

What stops tongue thrusting?

Myofunctional therapy is the best exercise that can help in combating this habit. It helps in retaining the muscles in the mouth and jaws. Moreover, there are retainer appliances available to treat tongue thrust. 

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