Symptoms of Tongue Thrust in Children & Adults, its Causes, Treatment and What Happens If The Tongue Thrust Is Not Treated?

What Is Tongue Thrust?

Tongue thrust is a condition where the tongue is pressed too forward in the mouth of the patient (usually a child) leading to “open bite,” (an orthodontic condition). Tongue thrust can be commonly seen in children and it has multiple causes that include allergies, bad swallowing habits and tongue-tie.

Symptoms of Tongue Thrust in Children

Why Do Babies Suffer from Tongue Thrust?

Tongue thrust is normal in babies who are breastfed or bottle-fed. As the child grows, its swallowing pattern also evolves and does not involve tongue thrust. However, prolonged use of a bottle or the use of some types of bottle nipples can cause abnormal tongue thrust, which persists even after the baby has grown up.

What Are The Causes for Tongue Thrust in Children?

Causes for Tongue Thrust, which start in infancy include.

  • Babies having chronic sucking habits also affect the movement of the tongue. These habits can include chronic or persistent thumb sucking, finger sucking or tongue sucking of the baby leading to tongue thrust.
  • If the child suffers from allergies, which are accompanied by chronically swollen adenoids or tonsils, then also it can cause tongue thrust.
  • Tongue thrust can also be caused by tongue-tie, which is a condition where the band of tissue under the tongue is short or tight.
  • Reverse swallow is a swallowing pattern in the infant, which can cause tongue thrust.

Tongue Thrust in Children

Tongue thrust is apparent in children, when there is excessive forward movement of the tongue when the child is speaking and swallowing. What happens is the tongue will be pushed forward in the mouth of the child or it can also press into the back of the child’s teeth causing various orthodontic problems.

Signs & Symptoms of Tongue Thrust in Children

Children exhibit many telltale signs of tongue thrust, which are seen as a pattern and these are.

  • Tongue Protrusion. In tongue thrust, the tongue is visible between the teeth of the child, where the tip of the tongue protrudes out between the teeth of the child irrespective of whether the child is swallowing, resting or speaking.
  • Mouth Breathing is a condition where the child is unable to close the lips completely and breathes through the mouth instead of the nose. Mouth breathing can be seen in a child having a tongue thrust. Mouth breathing can occur as a habit or due to some structural abnormality.
  • Open bite is another sign of tongue thrust, where the front teeth do not meet upon closing.
  • Eating fast, slowly or messily is seen in children having tongue thrust.
  • Speech impediment is also seen in children with tongue thrust. Speech impediment consists of lisping of s and z sounds.

Can Adults Also Suffer From Tongue Thrust?

  • If the tongue thrust or its cause is not treated in childhood, then this condition persists into the adulthood where it can cause many problems.
  • An adult suffering from the problem of tongue-thrusting results from problems like swelling of the tonsils, adenoids; and chronic allergies. Stress can also cause tongue-thrusting in adults.
  • Rarely, a person can develop a tongue thrust in adult life without experiencing it in childhood.

Tongue Thrust Symptoms In Adults

Adults having tongue thrust, experience the same type of symptoms that are seen in children. Adults can also thrust their tongue in their sleep. Other than the symptoms of tongue thrust which the children have, adults having tongue thrust can additionally develop an elongated facial appearance or structure due to the inability to swallow normally or close their mouths. Adults with tongue thrust can also have a larger tongue than normal.

Other than this, open bite caused by tongue thrust in adults leads to problems with eating. If the front teeth in adults with tongue thrust don’t meet properly, then biting into some foods can be difficult. The food can also slip through the gap in the teeth.

Diagnosis of Tongue Thrust

Diagnosis of tongue thrust can be done by various professionals, which include. pediatricians, general practitioners, dentists, speech language pathologists and orthodontists. The doctor observes the way the child swallows and speaks. The swallowing pattern of the child is observed by holding down the bottom lip to see how the child swallows and where the tongue is placed when swallowing. 

What Happens If The Tongue Thrust Is Not Treated?

If the tongue thrust is not treated, then it leads to malformed teeth. In tongue thrust, when the child pushes the tongue against the back of the teeth, the front teeth move outward from the pressure. This results in an open bite or a gap between the middle, top and bottom teeth.

If the tongue thrust is not treated, then it can cause long-term speech damage, such as lisping over certain sounds. An untreated tongue thrust can also lead to change in the facial structure where the face elongates and the tongue sticks out between the teeth.

What Is The Treatment For Tongue Thrust?

Treatment for tongue thrust is almost the same in children as well as adults.

Tongue Crib for Treating Tongue Thrust. In children, however, treatment of tongue thrust consists of placing a “tongue crib,” which is an orthodontic device in the roof of a child’s mouth. The child’s open bite can be corrected with the help of a tongue crib. Some adults can also receive orthodontic treatment for tongue thrust.

Orofacial Myology for Treating Tongue Thrust. Orthodontic devices usually offer a quick fix for tongue thrust, but they tend to be temporary. Orofacial Myology is the recommended treatment for tongue thrust. Orofacial myology is an ongoing treatment, which corrects the placement of the jaw, lips and tongue. Orofacial myology treats tongue thrust by fixing the incorrect swallowing habits of the child too. Treatment for open bites without ongoing therapy is seen to revert back itself over time.

Treat Tongue Thrust by Treating Allergies. If the child or adult having tongue thrust is suffering from any allergies or any nasal or breathing issues, then the treatment is addressed to fix these issues for successful swallowing therapy.

Speech Therapy for Tongue Thrust Treatment. Treatment for child suffering from tongue thrust also needs speech therapy to rectify any speech impediments caused by tongue thrusting. With sincere efforts and weekly therapy, the problem of tongue thrust can gradually be treated.

What’s the Prognosis of Tongue Thrust?

The prognosis of tongue thrust is very good, as it is an extremely treatable condition and patient can completely get rid of tongue thrust if he/she sincerely follows and attends therapy sessions and treatment recommended by the doctor.

Other underlying health problems, which are causing the tongue thrust also, need to be addressed. Following the correct treatment path, as underlined by the doctor makes for an excellent outlook for tongue thrust.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 8, 2022

Recent Posts

Related Posts