Does Your Tongue Affect Your Orthodontic Treatment?

A tongue thrust occurs when the muscles for swallowing have learned to work together the wrong way. The tongue can be very strong. When it constantly rests against the teeth and pushes forward during a swallow, it can cause the teeth to move.

If you have braces, a tongue thrust can be a problem because:

  1. It can slow down your orthodontic treatment, keeping your braces on for a longer time.
  2. It can make your teeth move again, after your braces are taken off.
  3. It can make moving your teeth and closing spaces much more difficult for your orthodontist.

When the muscles of your mouth and face are not in balance, solving orthodontic problems is much more challenging.

Do I Have a Tongue Thrust?

Photo of tongue thrustThere are many characteristics to look for in order to determine if you, or your child, have a tongue thrust. Below are 3 of the most common signs to recognize:

Mouth breathing is the most common sign.

The mouth is open at rest, and the tongue is often forward or sticking out.
Speech Concerns, especially lisping, can be a sign of a tongue thrust. If there is difficulty pronouncing “T, D, N, and L” sounds, this is another indicator. General problems with articulation, rate of speech, and vocal quality also result.
Sucking habits, past or present, can cause a tongue thrust to develop. The formation of the mouth and position of the tongue are changed by the thumb or finger during a sucking habit. Even if the child quits the habit, the damage caused to the function of the tongue, facial musculature, and other structures often still remains.

What Can Be Done to Fix a Tongue Thrust?

Orthodontists have struggled over the years, fighting the strength of the tongue while trying to provide the best orthodontic treatment. Many appliances have been invented to “tame” the tongue, and an appliance is one option available to help you with tongue thrust.
To the right, are 2 commonly used appliances to help with tongue thrust.

For many patients, these appliances can be uncomfortable or potentially painful, and this option is chosen as a last resort. Appliances like these may be worn up to year before braces are put on. It is important to know your options when it comes to correcting a tongue thrust. Sometimes an appliance can work in combination with other methods of treatment.

Myofunctional Therapy is Another Option

Myofunctional Therapy is an another method used for eliminating a tongue thrust. It is an exercise-based treatment that teaches patients how to use their tongue and facial muscles normally.

A Myofunctional Therapist (MFT) can be an instrumental figure in helping a patient learn to re-train the facial muscles and eliminate a tongue thrusting habit. MFTs are skilled at helping children and adults gain control over muscle patterning habits, including those involved in a tongue thrust.

Unfortunately, for children and adults who struggle with tongue thrusting, stopping the habit is not always easy. This is because all of the muscles of the face and mouth have been programmed over the course of many years. The person’s body does not know how to use the tongue and facial muscles correctly, and needs help.

A consultation with a MFT can be very valuable. If the muscles are not re-trained, your orthodontic treatment and final result may be compromised.

Besides affecting your braces, a tongue thrust can also have a lasting negative impact on a person’s general health, speech, dental health, swallowing and breathing throughout life.

2 Responses to “Does Your Tongue Affect Your Orthodontic Treatment?”

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