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Tongue Thrust in Children and Adults: What You Should Know

What is tongue thrust?

Tongue thrust appears when the tongue presses forward too far in the mouth, resulting in an abnormal orthodontic condition called an “open bite.”

The condition is most common in children. It has a myriad of causes, including poor swallowing habits, allergies, and tongue-tie.

Tongue thrust in babies

In babies who are breastfed or bottle-fed, tongue thrust is normal. As the child gets older, their swallowing and speaking pattern should evolve.

However, some types of bottle nipples — and prolonged use of a bottle — can lead to an abnormal tongue thrust that lasts past the infant stage and into early childhood.

There are several other potential causes for tongue thrust that begin in infancy. Some of these include:

long-term sucking habits that influence the tongue’s movement, like sucking of the thumb, fingers, or tongueallergies accompanied by chronically swollen tonsils or adenoidstongue-tie, where the band of tissue beneath the tongue is tight or shorta swallowing pattern known as reverse swallow

In children, a tongue thrust is apparent when there’s too much forward movement of the tongue during swallowing and speaking. Most often, the tongue tends to push forward in the mouth. Sometimes the tongue presses into the back of the teeth.

Tongue thrust has a number of telltale signs that manifest in children who have developed the pattern. These can include:

Tongue is visible between the teeth. The tip of the tongue sticks out between the teeth, whether the child is resting, swallowing, or speaking.Mouth breathing.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 impediment. Lisping of s and z sounds is common.

Tongue thrust in adults

You can carry tongue thrust forward into adulthood from untreated childhood habits or issues.

If you’re an adult with a tongue-thrusting issue, it could’ve developed because of chronic allergies or swelling of the adenoids and tonsils. Stress may also be the cause.

There are reports of tongue thrust developing later in life, but it’s not common.

The symptoms of tongue thrust in adults are similar to those in children. Some symptoms, like messy eating, aren’t likely to be as apparent.

You may thrust your tongue in your sleep. In addition to the symptoms listed above, an adult with tongue thrust might’ve developed an elongated facial structure or appearance because of the inability to close their mouths and swallow normally. They might also have a larger tongue than many adults.

Additionally, an open bite caused by tongue thrust can create trouble when eating. If the front teeth don’t meet properly, biting into certain foods can be uncomfortable. A person may also be unable to bite through some foods, like lettuce or lunch meat, with their front teeth. Instead, the food might slip through the gap in their teeth.

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