Tongue thrust is a common condition that can cause a range of dental and oral health issues. In this complete guide, we will discuss what tongue thrust is, its symptoms and signs, and the best ways to treat and prevent it.
What is Tongue Thrust?
Tongue thrust, also known as Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD), is a condition where the tongue pushes against the front teeth during swallowing, speaking, or resting. It can cause dental and oral health issues, such as misaligned teeth, speech problems, and sleep disorders. Several factors can cause this disorder including genetics, oral habits, and muscle imbalances in the mouth.
Symptoms and Signs
Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Common signs of include an open bite, a lisp, difficulty swallowing, mouth breathing, snoring, and sleep apnea.
Infant Tongue Thrust
Infants often exhibit a natural tongue thrust reflex, which helps them to breastfeed and swallow. However, some infants may develop it due to underlying medical conditions or oral habits, such as thumb-sucking or pacifier use. If left untreated, this condition can worsen in adulthood and can cause chronic pain in the jaw, head, neck, and shoulders, as well as speech impediments and difficulty with pronouncing certain sounds
Myofunctional Therapy for Tongue Thrust
Myofunctional therapy is a non-invasive treatment option that focuses on strengthening the muscles in the mouth and improving oral habits. This therapy can be effective in both children and adults. Some dental offices even have a myofunctional therapy on staff! Our office is lucky to have Courtney Krei, RDH, OMT on our team!
Diagnosing Tongue Thrust
Diagnosing tongue thrust typically involves a physical exam and evaluation of the patient’s medical and dental history. A speech-language pathologist or dentist may observe the patient’s resting and swallowing posture to see if the tongue is positioned incorrectly. In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays or a CT scan may be used to provide a more detailed picture of the patient’s oral anatomy and help identify any structural abnormalities that may be a contributing factor.
There are several treatment options to consider, both non-invasive and invasive. Myofunctional therapy, orthodontic treatment, and speech therapy are all non-invasive treatment options. Surgery and braces or other dental appliances may be necessary in severe cases.
Prevention is essential to maintain good dental and oral health. Tips for parents to prevent tongue thrust in infants include encouraging nasal breathing, addressing tongue-ties, and limiting pacifier use. Lifestyle changes to prevent tongue thrust in adults include proper tongue posture, avoiding thumb-sucking or other oral habits, and addressing any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to the condition.
Early intervention is key to preventing dental and oral health issues. Regular dental checkups and consultations with a pediatrician or dentist can help to identify and address potential issues early on.
Schedule an Appointment at Bloom Center for Sleep & Airway Health
With early diagnosis and proper treatment, most patients can achieve good oral health and improve their quality of life. We hope that this guide has helped you understand tongue thrust and the best ways to prevent and treat it.
If you or a loved one are experiencing dental and oral health issues, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at Bloom Center for Sleep & Airway Health. Our team of dental professionals can provide a comprehensive evaluation and recommend the best treatment options for your whole health.