Tongue Thrust

In the past five years, the majority of orthodontists, dentists, and speech therapists have recognized the damage resulting from swallowing problems and have been able to diagnose the problem accurately. Education in this field has been almost nil and some still do not presently recognize swallowing problems or know how to cope with them.

You Are Not Alone

Tongue thrust, deviate swallow, reverse swallow, oral facial muscle imbalance, visceral swallow, and infantile swallow are terms used to identify and define a particular type of swallowing pattern. Simply defined, it is the thrust of the tounge against or between the teeth and the contraction of the facial muscles while swallowing.

The term “tongue thrust” is a description rather than an etiological term, which we find most commonly used. Therefore, the term “tongue thrust” will be used throughout this treatment.

Oral Facial Muscle Imbalance

There is evidence to prove that too much pressure of the tongue against the teeth on the inside, and an unequal amount of facial muscle pressure on the outside will cause a malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth). In many patients, the mentalis (chin muscle) is in a constant state of contraction, tipping the mandibular (lower) incisors lingually (toward the tongue). The maxillary (upper) incisors may be tilted labially (toward the lips) because of pressure of the lower lip which is sucked up under the upper anterior teeth.

Imbalance may not always come from the swallowing pattern itself, but from the resting posture of the tongue and facial muscles. The teeth will not fully erupt, resulting in an open bite if the patient allows the tongue to constantly rest between the teeth. The anterior teeth will be tiled labially (toward the lips) if the tongue is constantly resting against the teeth and the upper lip is short or flaccid.