Tongue Thrust

What is a tongue thrust?

Tongue thrust is a swallowing disorder that affects many children and adults. Each time these individuals swallow, they push their tongues against or between their teeth. During a normal swallow, the tongue pushes upward against the palate.

Tongue thrust swallows are intrinsically linked to unhealthy oral resting positions.  These individuals often breathe with their lips apart and/or rest their tongues in a low/forward posture against or between their teeth.  These unhealthy habits put these individuals at risk for persistent speech disorders and orthodontic relapse as well as serious health problems such a chronic jaw/neck pain, migraines and even sleep apnea.

What damage is caused by a tongue thrust?

Individuals with a tongue thrust will often:

• Reverse their orthodontic results
• Reposition their teeth
• Pronounce words incorrectly
• Be messy eaters
• Have chronic neck and jaw pain

How can treatment help?

Motivated individuals can correct their tongue thrusts in as little as four months. Treatment programs must start with a thorough evaluation done by a professional orofacial myologist. These specialists are trained to identify all of the factors contributing to the tongue thrust. Then they set up individualized treatment programs to:

• Maintain beautiful smiles
• Reduce the time spent in braces and/or retainers
• Retrain the lips, tongue and jaw to chew and swallow correctly
• Habituate nose breathing while eliminating mouth breathing
• Tone and strengthen facial muscles
• Eliminate unhealthy habits like sucking fingers, pacifiers or pencils

How can I tell if a tongue thrust is present?

• Open mouth breathing
• Chewing with an open mouth
• Forward tongue movements during chewing and swallowing
• Resting the tongue against the teeth, between the teeth or on the lower jaw
• Misaligned teeth such as an overjet (buck teeth) or an openbite
• Persistent speech problems which do not improve with age or with speech therapy
• Messy eating
• Poor posture
• Persistent sucking habits, most frequently sucking the thumb

How are we trained to help?

The specialists at Jodie K. Schuller & Associates are professional speech and language therapists, many with over 25 years of experience in communicative disorders. Licensed by the state of California as speech-language pathologists, our therapists have completed advanced training in oral-motor development taught by leading experts in the field such as Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson, MS, CCC-SLP, and Char Boshart, M.A., CCC-SLP.  This training has prepared therapists to diagnose and treat oral-motor disorders involving drooling, chewing, swallowing and open-mouth breathing as well as speech production disorders.  Therapists have also been trained through the International Association of Orofacial Mylogy (IAOM) to identify and treat unhealthy tongue thrusts and improper tongue resting postures.  With this advanced training, therapists are prepared to eliminate thumb sucking and to treat individuals who suffer from serious related issues such as Temporomandibular Joint Pain (TMJ), chronic headaches and sleep apnea.


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