In orthodontic care, advancements in technology and treatment approaches have led to transformative outcomes for patients. One area of focus that has gained attention is the treatment of tongue thrusting, a common oral habit that can impact dental and facial development.
Understanding Tongue Thrusting
Tongue thrusting, which is known as infantile swallowing or reverse swallowing, is an orofacial myofunctional disorder. It refers to the habit of placing the tongue in an incorrect position during swallowing, resting, or speaking. It involves the forward placement of the tongue against or between the teeth, which can disrupt the proper alignment and functioning of the teeth and jaws. While some children outgrow this habit naturally, if left untreated, it can contribute to a range of orthodontic issues. These include malocclusion (improper bite), open bite, and dental crowding.
Several factors can contribute to the development of a tongue-thrusting habit in children. These include:
1. Thumb-sucking or pacifier (dummy) use:
Prolonged thumb-sucking or pacifier use can disrupt the natural development of the oral cavity, affecting the positioning of the tongue and muscles.
2. Malocclusion or misalignment of teeth:
Teeth that are misaligned or have an improper bite can create space for the tongue to thrust forward during swallowing.
3. Nasal congestion or allergies:
When children have difficulty breathing through their nose due to congestion or allergies, they may compensate by thrusting their tongue forward to create an open airway.
Effects of Tongue Thrusting
Persistent tongue thrusting can have several adverse effects on a child’s oral health, including:
Malocclusion: The continuous pressure from the tongue against the teeth can cause misalignment or gaps between teeth, leading to malocclusion (bite problems).
Speech difficulties: It can affect speech articulation, resulting in lisps or other speech impediments.
Impaired swallowing: Incorrect swallowing patterns can disrupt the proper movement of food from the mouth to the oesophagus, potentially leading to digestive issues.
Addressing Tongue Thrusting Habits
Fortunately, the habit can be addressed with appropriate intervention. Here are some strategies that can help:
1. Early intervention:
Identifying and addressing the habit as early as possible can prevent long-term complications. Regular dental check-ups can help in detecting such habits.
2. Myofunctional therapy:
Myofunctional therapy involves exercises and techniques to retrain the tongue muscles and correct swallowing patterns. A certified speech-language pathologist or an orofacial myologist can guide the child through these exercises.
3. Dental appliances:
In some cases, orthodontic devices, such as a tongue crib or a tongue thrusting appliance, may be recommended to discourage the habit and promote proper tongue posture.
4. Behavioural modification:
Encouraging positive behaviour and providing rewards for breaking the habit can motivate children to change their tongue posture and swallowing patterns.
5. Addressing underlying issues:
If allergies, nasal congestion, or other underlying medical conditions contribute to tongue thrusting, seeking appropriate medical treatment can help alleviate the habit.
Transform Orthodontic Care, with its three clinics located in West Lakes, St Peters and Modbury, provides appliances to address the issue of tongue thrusting. Led by the experienced orthodontist Dr De Angelis, the practice focuses on providing personalized treatment plans using cutting-edge techniques and technology. By identifying and addressing the habit early on, Transform Orthodontic Care aims to optimize treatment outcomes and ensure long-term dental health for patients.