In infants, the tongue naturally and automatically pushes forward between the teeth to help with suckling and swallowing. As children grow, this movement, known as tongue thrusting, should decrease and eventually disappear.
Past the age of 5 or 6, tongue thrusting is the abnormal habit of placing the tongue between the teeth before and during the act of swallowing. If tongue thrust continues the abnormal placement of the tongue can cause a range of problems for your child, including looking, speaking, and swallowing differently from other children.
Tongue thrust may be associated with a retruding lower jaw, long or narrow face, flaccid muscles of the lips and neck, elongation of the nose and an abnormal airway path, lips that do not touch without contracting the chin muscles, hyperactivity of the facial muscles, abnormal development of the palate, a short lingual frenulum, and an open bite (where the front teeth do not make contact).
According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association, symptoms of tongue thrust include:
- Tongue protruding between or against the upper and/or lower front teeth when forming /s/, /z/, /t/, /d/, /n/, /l/, or /sh/ sounds
- Frequent open-mouth resting posture with the lips parted and/or the tongue resting against the upper and/or lower teeth
- Lips that are often cracked, chapped, or sore from frequent wetness or licking
- Frequent mouth breathing in the absence of allergies or nasal congestion
Sucking is another instinctive behavior that is normal for babies and young children. Beyond early childhood, habitual digit sucking is problematic. Thumb or finger sucking can accompany tongue thrusting and, together, they can severely distort the position of the teeth and facial bones. These habits can be eliminated through a targeted behavioral program that provides positive reinforcement and coaching.
What can therapy do?
The fundamental purpose of tongue-thrust therapy is to bring harmony to the muscles of the tongue, lips, and cheeks with the structures of the dentition. Disharmony of these muscles can place damaging force on the basic dental architecture, causing malocclusions.
Therapy that takes a multidisciplinarian approach can correct anatomical problems such as a short lingual frenulum, narrow palate, or excessive overjet, and will also address any physiological problems, such as allergies. Sucking habits are immediately targeted in a sucking-cessation program led by the orofacial myofunctional therapist. Following a successful sucking-cessation program, treatment aims to develop muscle awareness, activate and tone the appropriate muscles, establish normal neuromuscular functions, form a routine to build new patterns, and ultimately normalize the new positive habits.
The TALK SLP Difference
“Laura Smith’s services have greatly helped my tongue thrust issues. I received previous treatment with an alternate therapist that produced no significant or long-term results, so I turned to Laura Smith. When I began, I was on the cusp of needing jaw surgery because my tongue thrust was causing permanent damage to my mouth. After less than a year of treatment with Laura, my teeth are forming properly and jaw surgery is an increasingly distant option.”
Is therapy with Laura right for me?
Laura S. Smith, MS, is a certified orofacial myologist (COM) as well as a certified speech-language pathologist (CCC-SLP). She has an unparalleled depth of experience working with children and adults in both acute and clinical settings. Her quest for more knowledge and precision skill in tongue thrust, swallowing, and related disorders, led her to pursue extensive training and research to help individuals with oral-motor, speech, and orofacial myofunctional disorders, bringing her work full circle.
Her compassionate, fun, enthusiastic, and motivating personality delivers results. For more information about Laura and the work that she does, please read her many client testimonials.
Goals of tongue-thrust therapy:
- Build awareness of healthy and correct oral behaviors
- Develop appropriate motivation to change habitual actions
- Establishment of correct oral resting postures for speaking, chewing and swallowing
- Habituate jaw closed, tip-up tongue and closed lips rest posture
- Achieve optimal respiration of mouth-closed, nose breathing postures
- Correction of the reverse-swallow pattern
- Stabilize functional movement zones for correct jaw and tongue movements for optimal and consistent production of speech sounds
Help is available!
Laura Smith, licensed speech-language pathologist and certified orofacial myologist, is specially trained to assist children and adults in overcoming their communication challenges. Her holistic approach takes into account the person as well as the problem.
Talk SLP LLC offices are located in the Northgate area of Seattle and on Mercer Island, allowing us to serve individuals and families throughout the greater Seattle region of Washington state. Telepractice appointments are also available, where clients can receive consultation and therapy services using online tools.
Contact us for more information or to make an appointment.