Tongue thrusting is also known as reverse or immature swallowing. It happens when your kid has a habit of pushing their tongue against their teeth when they swallow. It’s common in kids but can mess with their dental development if left unchecked.

However, pediatric dentists have some helpful and effective measures to stop tongue thrusting then and there for good. And if things get tricky, your dentist might call in reinforcements, like a speech therapist or orthodontist, to tag-team the tongue thrusting from all angles.

Why Do Kids Tongue Thrust?

Tongue thrusting is commonly found in children due to the following possible causes:

  • Oral Habits: Certain habits like persistent use of pacifiers, thumb sucking, or prolonged use of bottles.
  • Anatomical Factors: Structural issues such as a large tongue, a high palate, or problems with teeth alignment can cause tongue thrusting.
  • Airway Issues: Conditions like enlarged tonsils or adenoids can affect breathing patterns, triggering tongue thrusting as the body attempts to compensate for restricted airflow.
  • Muscle Weakness or Imbalance: Weakness or imbalance in the muscles of the tongue, lips, or face can result in improper swallowing patterns, including tongue thrusting.
  • Neurological Factors: Certain neurological conditions or developmental disorders may affect the muscles’ coordination in swallowing.
  • Genetics: In some cases, there can be a genetic predisposition to tongue thrusting.
  • Environmental Factors: Early feeding practices, oral habits modeled by family members, or environmental factors. They all can encourage tongue-thrusting behaviors in children.

Signs of Tongue Thrust in Toddlers

You can spot the tongue thrust in toddlers with the help of the following signs. This will help in seeking early intervention.

  • Visible Tongue Movement During Swallowing: Instead of the tongue moving up and back against the roof of the mouth during swallowing, it can push forward against the front teeth.
  • Open Mouth Posture: Constantly keeping the mouth open, even when not speaking or eating, can signify tongue thrust.
  • Speech Difficulties: Difficulty articulating certain sounds, especially sounds that require the tongue to be pressed against the roof of the mouth, such as “s,” “z,” “sh,” or “ch.”
  • Messy Eating Habits: Difficulty managing food in the mouth, excessive drooling, or frequent spills while eating can indicate challenges with tongue control.
  • Mouth Breathing: Habitual mouth breathing, particularly during sleep, can be associated with tongue thrusting. The tongue rests forward to accommodate restricted airflow through the nasal passages.
  • Orthodontic Issues: Misalignment of the teeth or an open bite (a gap between the upper and lower front teeth when the back teeth are together) can be caused or elevated by tongue thrusting.
  • Facial Expressions: Some toddlers can exhibit facial grimaces or tension around the mouth. This indicates difficulty with tongue placement or muscle coordination.

How Can a Pediatric Dentist Stop Tongue Thrusting in Children?

An early intervention from a pediatric dentist can do wonders for your child’s adult life. It’s easier to stop the development of tongue thrust at this age to prevent numerous dental issues in the future. A pediatric can take the following measures:

  • Assessment and Diagnosis
    The first step is to accurately diagnose the presence and severity of tongue thrusting. The pediatric dentist will examine the child’s oral cavity, teeth alignment, and swallowing patterns to determine the extent of the issue.
  • Education and Awareness
    The dentist will educate the child and the parents about tongue thrusting, its potential causes, and its consequences for oral health. Awareness of the problem is crucial for implementing effective strategies for correction.
  • Oral Habit Counseling
    The dentist can provide counseling to help the child break any oral habits that cause tongue thrusting, such as thumb sucking or prolonged pacifier use. They can offer strategies and encouragement to help the child modify their behavior.
  • Myofunctional Therapy
    Myofunctional therapy involves exercises and techniques designed to strengthen the tongue, lips, and face muscles and improve their coordination. The dentist can refer the child to a speech-language pathologist or a myofunctional therapist for specialized therapy sessions.
  • Orthodontic Intervention
    In some cases, orthodontic treatment can be necessary to correct misaligned teeth or jaw discrepancies. This could involve braces, palatal expanders, or other orthodontic appliances to facilitate proper dental alignment.
  • Behavioral Modification Appliances
    The dentist can recommend using specialized oral appliances, such as tongue crib or habit-breaking appliances. This is to discourage tongue thrusting and promote proper tongue placement during swallowing.
  • Regular Monitoring and Follow-up
    The pediatric dentist will closely monitor the child’s progress and provide ongoing support and guidance throughout treatment. Regular follow-up appointments allow adjustments to the treatment plan as needed and ensure that the child’s oral health improves.

Ending Note

Tongue thrusting might not appear as a big deal to a non-specialist. However, it not only looks unpleasant but causes numerous oral and physical health issues. Therefore, only a pediatric dentist knows “how to stop tongue thrusting in children.”

Visit our pediatric dentist, Dr. Mengxia Chen, at Smile4Ever Family Dentistry for a proper diagnosis and treatment for your child’s dental issues. Our doctor is extensively trained in pediatric dentistry. Dial (281) 213-5668 to book an appointment.

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