Often times a tongue thrust is observed as incorrect speech sound production, particularly with the /s/ sound which is characterized as a ‘lisp.’ However, there are many other characteristics of tongue thrusting outside of incorrect speech production that may be contributing to you or your child’s mouth posture. Tongue thrust essentially is when the tongue presses forward too far in the mouth which results in an abnormal ‘open bite’ posture of the teeth and mouth. Other causes include poor swallowing, allergies, tongue tie, and even stress. Thumb sucking, prolonged use of a pacifier and/or bottle, enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils, and being prone to mouth-breathing also contribute.
Signs to look for in determining whether tongue thrust is an issue:
Tongue is visible between the teeth. The tip of the tongue sticks out between the teeth, whether the child is resting, swallowing, or speaking.
Inability to close the lips completely. This could be due to a structural abnormality or habit.
Open bite. This occurs when the front teeth don’t meet when the teeth are closed.
Slow, fast, or messy eating.
Speech sound errors. Most often seen as a ‘lisp’ in the production of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds.
These untreated childhood habits can carry on in their development into adulthood. Adults with tongue-thrusting issues may have developed due to chronic allergies or swelling of the adenoids and tonsils. Stress may also be the cause.
Left untreated, tongue thrust can cause misaligned teeth. When the tongue pushes against the back of the teeth, the pressure can make your front teeth move outward which creates a gap, or open bite, between your middle, top and bottom teeth. Often, orthodontic work is put on hold until the tongue thrust is addressed and corrected because the continued thrusting of the tongue following orthodontic work could push the teeth out of alignment again.
Tongue thrust is a highly treatable condition. A full recovery can be made if you commit to the therapy and exercises recommended. HearSay is trained in determining tongue thrust and has the tools and resources to address these issues.
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