Try this…Push your tongue forward until it protrudes through your mouth.
You may notice that it encounters and pushes against the back of your upper teeth as it does so.
This singular action is ok, because it is just that…a single occurrence. But could you imagine this happening over and over again?
This will help to put things in perspective: in a 24 hour period a person swallows between 1,200 and 2,000 times.
Under normal circumstances, when you swallow, your tongue is supposed to move upwards towards your palate.
A tongue thrust is when the tongue is projected towards the front teeth and then exits the mouth. So, you can only imagine that if this ‘action’ is occurring so frequently, there will most likely be adverse effects regarding the teeth.
Note: Each time a person swallows, the tongue exerts about four pounds of pressure, so the repeated action of doing this is not favorable for the teeth.
Remember, we swallow between 1200-2000 times per day.
Tongue thrusts are a normal occurrence in children, but this action is usually over by six years of age. If it goes on past this age, the following problems may result:
1. Open Bite: The repeated action of pushing the tongue forwards results in a ‘buck tooth’ appearance. It is called an open bite because there ends up being a space between the upper and lower front teeth (see image above). With a normal or desirable bite, there wouldn’t be a space and if there was, it would just be a small one.
2. Speech problems: Tongue thrusters tend to ‘lisp’ when pronouncing an ‘s’
3. Facial Boney Development: Due to the repeated force of the tongue thrusting forward, not only do the teeth become angled forward, but the bone that they are anchored into gets shaped differently as well. The shape of the bone changes when forces are applied to it: this is just a property of bone, especially the young ‘malleable’ bone in children.
There are basically two ways to treat a tongue thrust:
• Via the help of a trained specialist: we try to retrain the muscles that are responsible for swallowing. Through special exercises the tongue is trained to move upwards towards the palate and not protrude forwards and exit through the mouth.
• An appliance can be made to prevent the tongue thrust. It is similar to a night guard and can be either removable or fixed in the mouth. Removable means we can take the appliance in and out of the mouth. Fixed means ‘it’ is cemented into the mouth; we can’t take it out.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about Tongue Thrust. Now on to a tongue twister: “How much wood, would a Woodchuck chuck, if a Woodchuck could chuck wood? ’’
Yours in happy smiles,
Dr. F. Keshavarz Dentistry