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The Truth About Tongue Thrust and Its Affects

The Truth About Tongue Thrust and Its Affects

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Sometimes, in life, it's easy to overlook or dismiss certain things that don't appear to be a big deal initially. We tend to prioritize immediate concerns or focus on more pressing matters, assuming that seemingly insignificant issues will eventually resolve themselves or have no significant impact on our lives. 

However, it's important to recognize that these seemingly small problems can gradually grow into significant challenges if left unattended. 


One common example is procrastination. Many of us are guilty of delaying tasks or responsibilities, especially when they seem minor or unimportant. However, as time passes, these small tasks accumulate and can quickly become overwhelming. What started as a simple chore or assignment can eventually transform into a source of stress and anxiety. 

Procrastination can hinder our productivity, strain our relationships, and even affect our mental well-being. By failing to address the seemingly small issue of procrastination, we unwittingly create a bigger problem for ourselves in the long run.

Similarly, ignoring minor health concerns is another area where seemingly insignificant matters can develop into significant problems. A small ache or pain, if disregarded, can progress into a chronic condition or a more severe ailment. Regular check-ups, preventive measures, and timely medical attention are essential to detect and treat health issues before they escalate. 

Neglecting or downplaying these initial signs can lead to more complex health problems, potentially requiring extensive treatment, lifestyle adjustments, or even hospitalization.

In this article, we’re discussing tongue thrust and its effects to help you determine whether it’s a big enough deal to want to correct it sooner rather than later.

defining tongue thrust

Defining Tongue Thrust

Tongue thrust, also known as orofacial muscular imbalance or orofacial myofunctional disorder, refers to a swallowing pattern or oral habit where the tongue pushes forward against or between the front teeth during swallowing, speaking, or resting. 

Normally, during swallowing, the tongue presses against the roof of the mouth (palate) in a coordinated manner. However, individuals with tongue thrust exhibit a different pattern, where the tongue exerts excessive pressure against the teeth, leading to various issues.

What Causes Tongue Thrust?

Tongue thrust can have several causes. In some cases, it may be a result of improper tongue posture, where the tongue habitually rests in a low or forward position instead of the correct resting position against the palate. This can be influenced by factors such as thumb sucking, pacifier use, prolonged bottle feeding, or nasal congestion. 

Other contributing factors can include structural abnormalities in the mouth or jaw, oral habits like thumb sucking or lip biting, allergies, or enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

The Effects of Tongue Thrust

Some of the effects of tongue thrust include:

dental problems from tongue thrust

1. Dental Problems: 

Tongue thrust can exert continuous pressure on the teeth, leading to various dental issues. The pressure can cause the teeth to shift out of alignment, resulting in malocclusion. 

Malocclusion can manifest as crowded teeth, gaps between teeth, crossbite (when the upper and lower teeth don't align properly), or an open bite (when the front teeth don't meet when the back teeth are closed together). These dental problems can impact the aesthetics of the smile and may require orthodontic treatment to correct.

2. Speech Difficulties: 

The position of the tongue is crucial for producing clear speech sounds. With tongue thrust, the abnormal resting or pushing forward of the tongue can interfere with proper speech production. 

Sounds that require the tongue to make contact with specific areas in the mouth, such as "s," "z," "ch," "j," and "t," may be particularly affected. Individuals with tongue thrust may experience lisping, difficulty pronouncing these sounds correctly, or overall speech articulation problems that affect their intelligibility and communication.

3. Swallowing Issues: 

Tongue thrust can disrupt the normal swallowing pattern. During swallowing, the tongue is supposed to press against the roof of the mouth, propelling the food backward into the throat. However, in individuals with tongue thrust, the tongue pushes against the teeth instead. 

This reverse or immature swallow pattern can lead to inefficient movement of food from the front to the back of the mouth, resulting in swallowing difficulties, a sensation of food sticking in the throat, or an increased risk of choking.

4. Facial Development: 

The continuous pressure exerted by the tongue against the teeth and the abnormal resting position can influence the growth and development of the jaws and facial bones, particularly in children. Tongue thrust can contribute to a narrow upper jaw, which affects the width and shape of the dental arches. 

This can result in dental crowding, as there may not be enough space for the teeth to align properly. Additionally, the pressure from the tongue can impact the position of the lower jaw, potentially leading to a retruded or recessed chin. These skeletal changes can affect facial aesthetics and may require orthodontic treatment and/or orthognathic surgery for correction.

5. Breathing and Sleep:

Tongue thrust is often associated with mouth breathing. When the tongue rests against the front teeth or doesn't support the roof of the mouth, it can contribute to an open mouth posture and chronic mouth breathing. 

Mouth breathing can lead to a variety of issues, such as dry mouth, increased risk of dental decay, bad breath, and altered airflow during sleep. It may also be associated with sleep-disordered breathing conditions, including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Proper tongue posture, nasal breathing, and addressing tongue thrust can help improve breathing patterns and sleep quality.

6. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders: 

Tongue thrust can contribute to problems with the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull. The abnormal tongue posture and swallowing pattern can place strain on the jaw joint and surrounding muscles, leading to TMJ disorders. 

Symptoms may include jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth, difficulty in fully opening or closing the mouth, and headaches. Addressing tongue thrust can help alleviate the strain on the TMJ and improve jaw function.

7. Oral Hygiene Issues: 

The continuous pressure of the tongue against the front teeth and open mouth posture associated with tongue thrust can create challenges in maintaining proper oral hygiene. The pressure can lead to gum recession and make it harder to clean the teeth effectively, increasing the risk of dental problems such as cavities and gum disease. 

Additionally, mouth breathing can cause dryness in the mouth, reducing saliva flow and its protective effects against oral bacteria. Good oral hygiene practices, including regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups, are important to mitigate these oral health risks.

self esteem and social impact of tongue thrust

8. Self-Esteem and Social Impact: 

The visible effects of tongue thrust, such as misaligned teeth, lisping, or difficulty with speech articulation, can impact an individual's self-esteem and social interactions. 

These effects may lead to self-consciousness, teasing, or difficulties in communication. Addressing tongue thrust and its associated effects can help improve self-confidence, speech clarity, and overall social well-being.

9. Chewing and Digestion: 

Tongue thrust can affect the chewing process and overall digestion. The abnormal tongue posture and swallowing pattern may result in inefficient chewing and inadequate breakdown of food, making it harder for the digestive system to process nutrients properly. 

This can lead to digestive discomfort, such as bloating, gas, or indigestion. By addressing tongue thrust and improving swallowing patterns, individuals may experience improved chewing efficiency and digestion.

10. Orthodontic Treatment Challenges: 

If tongue thrust is not addressed before or during orthodontic treatment, it can pose challenges to achieving optimal results. The continuous pressure from the tongue can exert forces that counteract orthodontic corrections, leading to relapse or prolonged treatment duration. 

It's crucial to identify and address tongue thrust early in the orthodontic treatment planning to ensure successful outcomes.

Remember, each individual may experience a unique combination of effects, and the severity of tongue thrust can vary. Seeking professional evaluation and guidance from speech-language pathologists, orofacial myologists, orthodontists, and dentists specialized in orofacial myology is essential for accurate diagnosis, personalized treatment planning, and monitoring progress to address the specific effects of tongue thrust effectively.

What to Do About Tongue Thrust

If you or your child is experiencing tongue thrust, it’s definitely something you want to correct as soon as possible. The longer tongue thrust exists, the more it will exacerbate the negative effects. The key to eliminating tongue thrust is to fix the ultimate issue, the tongue’s position in the mouth. 

IJustWantTo® Correct My Tongue Thrust is a program that will help you correct tongue thrust by retraining the tongue to fit properly in a person’s mouth. 

This program is the only solution of its kind. It is a 7-week tongue exercise program that has been shown to be effective in repositioning the tongue and eliminating tongue thrust. Specific tongue exercises help build muscle and eventually make the new tongue position automatic. 

When this occurs, it's time to switch to nasal breathing while you sleep to eliminate snoring and other issues associated with mouth breathing.

The author, Janet Bennett, M.Ed., has a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology and has been a licensed Speech Pathologist for over 30 years. She has treated Tongue Thrust exclusively since 1994 and is now sharing this technique with you.

If you are ready to correct tongue thrust and get relief from its negative effects, you can reach out to IJustWantTo Correct My Tongue Thrust today and find out more about our program!

Janet M. Bennett

Written by:

Janet Bennett, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is a Speech Pathologist in private practice in Asheville, NC, since 1977. She specializes in treating tongue thrust, a swallowing disorder that can result in buckteeth, an open bite, a lisp, snoring, and other problems that have not yet been made known to most people.