Do you have an open bite where your front teeth are angled forward and a big gap between your upper and lower teeth? If so, it may have been caused by tongue thrusting. This is a condition where your tongue pushes forward against the teeth. Over time, this can cause the teeth to bend forward. That means you’ll need orthodontic treatment to fix your teeth.
Tongue thrusting can be a bad habit from poor swallowing or talking habits, or it can result from other medical issues. At Ohana Orthodontics, we have ways to help you break your tongue-thrusting habit and repair your bite afterward. You’ll find it easier to bite and chew your food once your bite is fixed, and you may find it easier to swallow and speak once your tongue thrusting issue is eliminated. Tongue thrusting is usually addressed in children, but we can also help adult patients.
What Is Tongue Thrust?
What is a tongue thrust, and how does it develop? Tongue thrust is a normal thing in infants. You can see them thrust their tongue forward when they eat or are ready to eat. It’s expected as they use a pacifier or a bottle. However, the tongue thrust should subside as the child ages and is weened off bottles and pacifiers.
The child can develop tongue thrust if they stay on the bottle or pacifier longer than usual. Thumbsucking for an extended period can also cause a tongue thrust. A child should be off of these things by age 2 to avoid developing tongue thrust or an overbite.
Without proper care, tongue thrusting can continue into adulthood. This can cause chronic swelling with adenoids or tonsils, speech impediments, and problems breathing and eating.
Other Causes of Tongue Thrust
Tongue thrust can also develop due to a tongue-tie. A tongue-ie is a flap of skin that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth when the fetus is developing. That flap dissolves and moves back before the baby is born, allowing the child to move its tongue properly.
If the tongue-tie remains, the infant may have trouble latching on to its mother’s breast for feeding. It may be colicky or fussy and not gain weight properly because it’s not getting enough food or nourishment. The tongue-tie will also cause abnormal tongue movement during speech, which may slow speech development.
A quick, outpatient procedure can eliminate the tongue-tie and allow the child to develop feeding and speech properly.
Allergies can also cause a tongue thrust. Swollen adenoids or tonsils can cause the child to breathe through its mouth rather than through the nose. This can cause a habit of thrusting the tongue against the teeth when trying to swallow between breaths.
Finally, the child could learn to swallow in the reverse direction, which thrusts the tongue against the tooth.
All of these can be addressed to eliminate tongue thrusting.
Tongue Thrusting Symptoms
There are several symptoms to let you know your child may have a tongue thrust. These can also be signs of tongue thrusting in adults.
- Mouth breathing. Allergies or tongue-ties can cause your child to breathe through their mouth more than through the nose. These can cause tongue thrust.
- Tongue Sticks Out Between Teeth. When the child’s mouth rests, the tongue may be visible between the upper and lower teeth.
- Slow or fast eating or messy eating. The child may eat incorrectly because of the misplaced tongue.
- Open bite. A constantly thrusting tongue can force the teeth outward, creating an overbite or an open bite, making a large gap in the bottom and top teeth in the front.
- Speech impediments. Children may form a lisp or have trouble pronouncing certain sounds such as s, z, or ch.
How to Fix Tongue Thrust and Open Bite
The easiest way to fix tongue thrust depends on the cause. If it’s a tongue-tie, a simple procedure to remove the tongue tie will improve the patient immediately. After that, it may take a bit of time to get the tongue to work properly. Time with a speech therapist may help the patient learn how to speak and move their tongue properly afterward.
The tongue can be trained to sit and move properly with the other causes, even after tongue-tie surgery, with an appliance called a tongue crib. This is an orthodontic appliance that is bonded to the back teeth. Wires wrap to the front to a small “basket” that holds the tip of the tongue off the teeth and in its proper place. After a few months, the tongue has learned to move properly, and the tongue crib can be removed.
A tongue crib may be used on orthodontic patients just before the repair of an open bite or overbite caused by the tongue thrust. We want our patients to get the best results possible, which means moving the tongue off the teeth first, so the tongue doesn’t keep the teeth from moving where they belong. The patient will then have their open bite corrected with braces or Invisalign. When treatment is finished, the tongue should sit properly, and you should have a beautiful, straight smile!
Tongue and Teeth Care in Canby, OR
If you’re in the Canby, OR, area, visit Ohana Orthodontics if you suspect you or your child has tongue thrust issues. We can recommend the best way to address the problem and make tooth repairs with braces or Invisalign if needed. The sooner the problems are addressed, the less damage they will cause to your teeth, speech, and breathing. You can schedule an appointment with us to get started today!