“What is Tongue Thrust?”
During the act of swallowing and during
rest posture the tongue can contribute to a disturbance of the relationship of the teeth
(malocclusion). The habit of thrusting or
resting the tongue against (or between) the teeth is commonly referred to as “tongue thrust”.
Why Be Concerned About “Tongue Thrust?”
With a person who has a tongue thrust, the
muscles of the tongue, lips and cheeks do not work in harmony with the dental structures.
This abnormal function (or disharmony of the musculature) can bring about a negative influence on
the basic dental architecture, thereby contributing to the malalignment of
Bringing harmony to the function of the muscles can:
(1) Guide the teeth into a more desirable relationship during the growth and
(2) Assist the orthodontist in his/her attempt to align teeth and jaws properly.
(3) Assist in stabilizing the teeth during and/or
after orthodontic treatment and/or surgery.
(4) Enhance overall appearance. Resting with the lips together has a positive cosmetic
What Causes “Tongue Thrust?”
(1) Thumb and finger sucking habits
(1) Habitual mouth breathing
(2) Open-lips rest posture problems
(3) Neurological problems
(4) Structural problems
(5) Developmental problems
(6) Any combination of the above
If a person experiences any of the above, it does
not necessarily mean s/he is going to become a tongue thruster. It only increases the probability.
I Am Already Going To An Orthodontist! Can’t S/he Straighten The Teeth?
Yes, your orthodontist is an artisan when it
comes to moving teeth! However, if the teeth are properly aligned within a hostile muscle
environment, the stability of the final result is
threatened. The muscles can slowly reject the new position of the teeth, thereby contributing
to undesirable tooth movement.
Why Be Concerned About The Malalignment Of Teeth?
(1) Malocclusion may affect the mental health of
a patient by having a negative impact on appearance.
(2) Malocclusion may have an undesirable impact on the dental health of a patient:
• If the teeth do not meet properly, the patient may become more susceptible to “gum disease”
• If malocclusion exists, the patient may be unable to bite and chew food efficiently.
• Malocclusion is thought to contribute to “jaw joint” problems (TMJ problems) and facial pain
• Malocclusion is thought to contribute to excessive grinding of the teeth (bruxing).
But The Patient Is In Braces! Why Wasn’t I Told Sooner?
As indicted earlier, structural problems can
contribute to tongue thrust. Sometimes the orthodontist must alter those structural problems before
therapy can be of assistance.
The patient’s tongue has been accustomed to
being carried in a mouth where the teeth and/or jaws are malaligned. Sometimes the tongue thrust
problem is not noticed until the teeth are more favorably aligned. The teeth have been moved by the
braces into a new position which the muscle function begins to oppose. The tongue thrust condition
then becomes noticeable.
What Can Be Done To Correct These Muscles Problems?
If the muscles of the tongue, cheek and lips
appear to be contributing to a dental malocclusion there may be reason for concern.
Consult a myofunctional therapist as soon as
the problem is brought to you attention. The myofunctional therapist has been trained in the
identification, diagnosis and treatment of
tongue thrust and its related problems. She is familiar with a variety of
procedures involved in the correction of these
problems. The design of the treatment is:
(1) To develop an awareness of the appropriate musculature
(2) To tone the appropriate musculature
(3) To develop normal neuromusculature functions
(4) To establish a routine on which to
construct a habit pattern
(5) To assist in making the new neuromuscular patterns habitual.
At What Age Should Therapy Begin?
Age is definitely a factor to consider! Early identification and treatment is best of the following
(1) By correcting the muscle function during the growth and development years, more
normal dental growth is encouraged.