Tongue-Thrust and swallowing therapy

What is tongue-thrust?

Tongue Thrust is an atypical and inefficient swallowing pattern that is observed in adults and children.  Individuals who tongue thrust swallow by pushing the tongue against the back of or between the teeth.  In contrast, a more efficient swallowing pattern involves pushing the tongue against the roof of the mouth.

Due to the abnormal pressure of the tongue against the teeth during swallowing, tongue thrust can cause misalignment of the teeth and jaw.  Problems with speech clarity may also result due to incorrect contact of the tongue during speech resulting in distortions. 

For this reason, tongue thrust is now recognized as an oral myofunctional disorder that is best treated by your dentist/orthodontist and a speech pathologist working as a team.

What are the visible signs of tongue thrust?

  • Mouth in open posture when at rest
  • Abnormal protrusion of the tongue when speaking or at rest
  • Chewing with the mouth open
  • Exaggerated jaw movements when chewing
  • Appearance of “licking lips” while eating
  • Projecting the tongue forward during swallowing
  • Pressing the lips together very hard when swallowing
  • Drinking large amounts of liquids during meals to “wash down” the food
  • Distorted pronunciation, particularly of /s/ and /z/

 What are the major problems that can be caused by tongue thrust?

  • Misarticulation of speech sounds, including consonants and vowels
  • Misalignment of the teeth, gums, jaw, and other facial features
  • Misalignment of teeth after orthodontics have been completed
  • Poor digestion of solid foods.
  • Delay in the development of speech and language during early childhood

Can tongue thrust be corrected?

Yes! Tongue thrust is correctable for both adults and children.

Where do I begin?

Your healthcare provider, such as a physician, dentist or orthodontist, may refer you to a speech pathologist/therapist who can perform an evaluation to assess the effects of tongue thrusting on speech clarity and swallowing.

What is the treatment?

Dental treatment, swallowing therapy, and speech therapy can be coordinated to provide comprehensive care. Your speech therapist will develop an individualized therapy program to improve swallowing and speech intelligibility in coordination with your dental treatment plan.

  • Lip, tongue, and check muscles are strengthened, and an efficient, normal swallowing pattern is established
  • Normal resting posture for the tongue is also established to relieve pressure on the teeth
  • If necessary, speech therapy is provided to improve articulatory precision.

 

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