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Top Six Side Effects of Tongue Thrust

Top Six Side Effects of Tongue Thrust

Monday, August 07, 2023

We often take our oral health for granted, focusing mainly on our teeth and gums, but we tend to overlook the important role that our tongue plays in maintaining overall oral well-being. 


Tongue thrust is a common but often misunderstood condition where a person's tongue exerts excessive pressure against their teeth during swallowing, speaking, and even at rest. 

While some tongue thrust is normal during infancy, persistent tongue thrust in older children and adults can lead to a range of side effects that deserve attention. In this article, we will delve into the various side effects of tongue thrust and explore the significance of early diagnosis and treatment.

Before we delve into the side effects, it's important to understand the mechanics of tongue thrust. The tongue is a strong and flexible muscle essential for various oral functions such as eating, swallowing, and speech. 

Ideally, during a swallow, the tongue should press against the roof of the mouth (the palate), pushing food or liquid backward into the throat. This action helps to protect the airway and promote effective swallowing.

Understanding the Side Effects of Persistent Tongue Thrust

However, in individuals with tongue thrust, the tongue habitually pushes against the front or bottom teeth instead of the palate during swallowing or even at rest. This prolonged pressure against the teeth can result in several adverse effects on oral health and facial development if left unaddressed.

1) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Malocclusions and Dental Issues

One of the most common side effects of persistent tongue thrust is the development of malocclusions or misalignments of the teeth. The constant pressure from the tongue can push the front teeth forward, causing an overjet or the tongue might protrude between your teeth when swallowing and cause an open bite (a gap between the upper and lower front teeth when the back teeth are together). 

2) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Speech Problems

Tongue thrust can impact speech development, leading to issues with articulation and pronunciation. Certain sounds may be challenging to produce, and individuals may develop a lisp or have difficulty saying certain words or phrases clearly.

3) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Swallowing Difficulties 

Tongue thrust is an incorrect swallowing posture, which will cause problems with swallowing. Improper tongue movements during swallowing can result in inefficient clearance of food or liquid from the mouth, increasing the risk of choking or aspiration.

4) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Issues With Facial Structure and Muscles 

Prolonged tongue thrust can influence the development of facial muscles and bone structure, particularly in growing children. This can lead to changes in the shape of the face, contributing to a long and narrow appearance.

5) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Breathing Issues 

Usually, when a person has a tongue thrust, they are also mouth breathers. Mouth breathing can lead to a range of health issues, including dry mouth, daytime sleepiness and trouble concentrating.

6) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to snoring and possibly sleep apnea

Most tongue thrusters breathe through their mouth while sleeping. Mouth breathing usually results in snoring, which could lead to sleep apnea. This can be corrected quickly to avoid serious problems.

Tongue Thrust Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing tongue thrust involves a comprehensive examination by a qualified speech-language pathologist. The professional will observe the patient's swallowing patterns, speech, and dental alignment to determine the presence and severity of the condition.

Early diagnosis is preferable, especially in children, as the growing years provide a window of opportunity for intervention. Early intervention can help redirect tongue movements and promote proper oral muscle development, preventing more severe side effects in the future.

Tongue thrust is a condition that deserves attention and proactive management. The side effects of persistent tongue thrust can have a significant impact on oral health, speech development, facial structure, and overall well-being. 

If you suspect that you or someone you know may have tongue thrust, it is essential to consult a qualified healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance. By understanding and addressing this condition, we can pave the way for a lifetime of improved oral health and overall quality of life.

Correct Your Tongue Thrust

We want to help you avoid and find relief from the side effects of tongue thrust. IJustWantTo® CorrectMyTongueThrust is a seven-week program that helps you retrain the tongue’s placement in the mouth.

This is accomplished by building the tongue muscles with specific exercises and making the new tongue position a habit. When this happens, nasal breathing should replace mouth breathing while sleeping, stopping snoring and other symptoms of mouth breathing.

If you would like to begin the process of correcting tongue thrust, you can purchase our program today

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.