Tongue thrusting is the habit that occurs by pushing the tongue forward between the upper and lower front teeth when swallowing.
The proper position for the tip of the tongue is to push against the gum above the back of the upper front teeth and roll backwards in the roof of the mouth.
A tongue thrust swallowing pattern is normal in babies while they are breast or bottle-feeding. When transitioning to solids we should begin to take on the habit of placing the tongue tip against the roof of the mouth behind the top front teeth when swallowing. Food is then propelled backwards with a wave-like movement of the tongue, rather than forwards (which is the result when a tongue thrust swallow is present).
A tongue thrust swallow may be retained due to:
- Thumb or finger sucking and other habits
- Sucking clothing or hair
- Mouthing objects (for adults this may be chewing pens)
- Nail biting or chewing lips and cheeks
- Large tonsils or adenoids
- Allergies and nasal congestion
- Tongue tie
- Early loss of teeth
- Retained neonatal reflexes
The constant force exerted from the tongue thrusting can push the teeth forward and to become misaligned. This can affect the jaws development and the bite. Most people with a tongue thrust will develop an open bite, where the upper and lower front teeth do not meet as they should.
Tongue thrusts, in some cases can be corrected through myofunctional exercises and dental orthopaedics. In other cases they will need an appliance to correct the habit. These treatments are all done in house.