Tongue Thrust Therapy
A Commonsense Approach in Treating this Stubborn Habit
Normally, during a healthy swallow, the tongue automatically moves up against the roof of the mouth. In a person with a tongue thrust habit, the tongue pushes into the back of the top and bottom teeth or against the sides of the teeth. It’s best to identify this habit at an early age, although tongue thrust therapy is effective for people of all ages.
Medically described as an orofacial muscular imbalance, tongue thrust can be brought on by several factors including chronic mouth breathing, which is often the result of sinus congestion. Most infants have swallowing patterns that involve a thrusting of the tongue, but this usually disappears by 6 months of age.
Left untreated, tongue thrust can lead to problems with:
The effectiveness of dental braces
A person’s health in general
The Importance of Swallowing Correctly
The primary goal of tongue thrust therapy is to restore a correct swallow. Proper and healthy swallowing involves pressing the front section of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, just behind the top front teeth.
Swallowing involves the coordination of facial, mouth and throat muscles to allow food, drinks and saliva to safely move into the throat. It’s something that most of us take for granted, even though it’s quite a complex process that requires the harmonious function of a variety of body parts.
When you consider that the average person engages in swallowing between 500 and 1,000 times per day, it’s not hard to see how a habitual dysfunctional swallow can lead to problems. The longer this is allowed to go on, the behavior will become more ingrained and “natural” for the individual. This is where myofunctional therapy comes in.
How Tongue Thrust Therapy Can Help
Step one is a thorough screening for a history of allergies and obstructions within the nasal passages. We also want to assess the tone of the mouth and lip muscles. Based on what we find, I may refer you to an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) or an allergist to treat for nasal congestion.
Some of the exercises we’ll use are designed to help you breathe properly through your nose while keeping your lips together. Other exercises will help train you to swallow correctly.
By completing the daily exercises, you can expect good results. Keep in mind, however, that muscles need time to become stronger, and the brain needs time to learn to work the involved muscles the right way. Be patient and diligent, and you’ll see a significant change.