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Speech, Language, Myofunctional, and Feeding Therapy

Lincoln, NE and surrounding areas

Commonly asked questions: 

What is a tongue thrust?

Tongue thrust is a forward position of the tongue during rest, and a thrust against or between the teeth during swallowing and speech. A tongue thrust condition is sometimes called an orofacial (mouth and face) myofunctional (muscle function) disorder (OMD).  The tongue may lie too far forward during rest or protrude between upper and lower teeth during speech, swallowing, and at rest.

It is estimated a person swallows a total of 1,200 to 2,000 times every 24 hours with about four pounds of pressure per swallow.

This constant pressure of the tongue will force the teeth and arches out of alignment. Aside from the pressure exerted while swallowing, nervous thrusting also pushes the tongue against the teeth while it is at rest. This is an involuntary, subconscious habit that is difficult to correct.

Signs and Symptoms of a tongue thrust

  • Tongue protrusion between or against the teeth when forming /s, z, t, d, n, l, sh/

  • Frequent open mouth resting position with lips parted

  • Mouth breathing

  • Messy and/or loud eating

  • Tongue visually near front of mouth or between teeth while speaking and/or swallowing

  • Lips often cracked, chapped, and sore from frequent licking

  • TMD  (jaw or jaw joint) pain

  • Orthodontic relapse

  • Protruding teeth

  • Open bite

Causes of a tongue thrust

  • Prolonged use of artificial nipples (bottles/ pacifiers)

  • Prolonged sippy cup usage 

  • Thumb sucking

  • High arches and/or narrow palate

  • Allergies or congestion

  • Enlarged tonsils

  • Tongue tie

Different types of tongue thrusts

There are variations of tongue-thrust and related orthodontic problems:

  • Anterior open bite — This is the most typical and common form of tongue thrust. In such cases, the lips do not close properly, and a child often has an open mouth and tongue protruding beyond the lips. Generally, this type of tongue thrust is accompanied by a large tongue.

  • Anterior thrust — The lower lip pulls in the lower incisors, and the upper incisors are extremely protruded. The anterior thrust is frequently accompanied by a strong muscle of the chin (mentalis).

  • Unilateral thrust — The bite is typically open on either side.

  • Bilateral thrust — Posterior teeth from the first bicuspid through back molars can be open on both sides and the anterior bite is closed. The bilateral thrust is the most difficult to correct.

  • Bilateral anterior open bite — The only teeth that touch are the molars. The bite is completely open on both sides, including the front teeth. A large tongue is often noted.

  • Closed bite thrust — Both the upper and lower teeth are spread apart and flared out. The closed-bite thrust is typically a double protrusion.

Can a tongue thrust be corrected?

Nation wide, successful correction of tongue thrust appears in 75% of treated cases; 20% of patients are unsuccessful due to poor cooperation and lack of commitment by parents and clients; and the remaining 5% are unsuccessful due to other factors that make correction impossible, such as physical or mental development problems. 

Treatment may include the following: (a) education regarding the importance of proper tongue and lip postures when at rest and when swallowing, (b) awareness training to establish appropriate resting postures for the lips and tongue, and (c) exercises to develop an appropriate swallow movement.


Websites on tongue-thrust (myofunctional disorder):

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