The human tongue is the strongest muscle in the entire body. It has a lot of work to do, helping us eat, speak, and swallow. It is not surprising, then, that the tongue could have detrimental effects on the orofacial system such as how the teeth are aligned, and the width of the upper palate and airways. Unfortunately, when the tongue functions improperly, it interferes with your oral health and wellbeing. Find out on our blog today how to tell if you have tongue thrust, the dangers of ignoring it, and what can be done about it.
First, let’s talk about the symptoms of tongue thrust. The main sign of it is that the tongue pushes against the backsides of the teeth when swallowing. This sign is most apparent when the person is chewing or swallowing.
Less visible signs of tongue thrust may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Picky eating
- Sensitive gag reflex
- Protruding front teeth
- Gapped front teeth
- Open bite
What causes tongue thrust?
Our airway dentists in Raleigh at About Face Collaborative classify tongue thrust as an orofacial myofunctional disorder, which often can be caused by prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier usage. In some cases, tongue thrust is indicative of an untreated tongue-tie, which means the tissue tethering the tongue’s underside to the floor of the mouth is restrictive or too thick. We regularly swallow throughout the day, and even in our sleep. If the tongue moves incorrectly, putting undue pressure on the front teeth, it can lead to protruding teeth and an improper bite. While this may seem to be only an aesthetic concern, the effects go much deeper than looks.
Problems with untreated tongue thrust
Ignoring tongue thrust goes far beyond aesthetics. It can result in a narrow airway, which increases the risk of sleep-breathing disorders such as sleep apnea. For adults, untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. In children, the stakes are just as severe, impeding growth and development, which is why early diagnosis and treatment are essential.
Treating tongue thrust
Treatment of tongue thrust should include correcting the problem at its source, not just fixing aesthetics such as with orthodontics to straighten teeth. Neglecting to treat the root cause results in orthodontic relapse later in life, which is why many adults end up getting braces twice. Instead, About Face Collaborative focuses on treating the orofacial system as a whole, retraining the tongue to rest and function correctly. This can be done through myofunctional therapy, a series of exercises for the tongue. The goal is to promote proper rest oral posture, with the teeth together, tongue resting against the roof of the mouth, and the lips together, and to facilitate nasal breathing, instead of breathing through the mouth.
Other treatments for tongue thrust may include wearing an oral appliance to help train the tongue to resist pressing against the back of the teeth. If untreated tongue thrust has already contributed to physical changes in your facial structure or tooth alignment, orthodontics can correct these issues.
Treating Tongue Thrust in Raleigh, Durham, and Cary
When it comes to managing orofacial myofunctional disorders, the earlier they are caught and treated, the better. If you are an adult who has dealt with tongue thrust your entire life, help is achieved by contacting About Face Collaborative. Likewise, if you notice that your child is dealing with this disorder, we can help children of all ages. If you would like to learn more about orofacial myofunctional disorders or how tongue thrust is treated in Raleigh, contact About Face Collaborative by calling (804) 387-7002 to schedule a consultation.