Tongue thrust also referred to as a “reverse swallow” is a common orofacial myofunctional disorder. It is a pattern where the tongue protrudes between the teeth while eating, speaking, or at rest.
There are many possible causes of tongue thrust including:
- Oral habits – thumb/finger sucking, extended pacifier use, etc.
- Respiratory issues – enlarged tonsils/adenoids, allergies, mouth breathing, etc.
- Premature loss of baby teeth which allows the tongue to move forward into the spaces created by missing teeth
- Difficulty with tongue coordination
Effects of Tongue Thrust
Over time, a tongue thrust can affect your child’s speech and the alignment of their teeth. When the tongue continually presses against the teeth, it can push the teeth out of alignment requiring orthodontics. After orthodontics, if the tongue thrust is not corrected, it can push the teeth out of alignment again. It also can affect a child’s speech. The most common articulation errors are “s,” “z,” “j,” “ch,” and “sh.”
Diagnoses and Treatment
A speech-language pathologist may diagnose tongue thrust after evaluating the child for speech sound errors. If the child does not display any speech sound errors, the diagnoses may come from a dentist or orthodontist.
Treatment will depend on the child’s individual needs. The SLP may refer to other professionals to correct any additional needs that may be underlying or contributing to the tongue thrust pattern. Generally, treatment focuses on eliminating any negative oral habits, learning a new habitual rest posture, establishing a new swallow pattern, and correcting any speech sound production errors.