Can Your Tongue Affect Orthodontic Treatment?

Can Your Tongue Affect Orthodontic Treatment?


A tongue thrust occurs when the coordination of swallowing muscles becomes incorrect, causing the tongue to push against the teeth during swallowing and even at rest. This can result in tooth movement. Myofunctional therapy for tongue thrust is an option for patients who are considering orthodontics.


If You Wear Braces, a Tongue Thrust Can Cause these Problems:


  1. It can prolong your orthodontic treatment, requiring you to wear braces for a longer period.
  2. It can cause teeth to shift again after braces have been removed.
  3. It can make it more challenging for your orthodontist to move your teeth and close gaps.

When the muscles in your mouth and face are not working correctly, resolving orthodontic problems becomes more difficult and some people even get braces for a second time.


How to Know If You Have a Tongue Thrust:


There are several signs or symptoms that help identify a tongue thrust in yourself or your child. Here are four common indicators:

  1. Mouth breathing (during the day and/or at night)
  2. The mouth remains open at rest, and the tongue is often positioned forward or sticking out.
  3. Persistent speech difficulties, particularly lisping and struggles with pronouncing “T, D, N, and L” sounds, may be present.
  4. TMJ or Facial Pain. One symptom of a tongue thrust swallow is pain in the cheek muscles or pain in the jaw joint from frequent over use of these body parts.

Sucking habits, past or present, can contribute to the development of a tongue thrust. Even if the habit is discontinued, the damage to tongue function, facial muscles, and other structures may persist.


How to Correct a Tongue Thrust:


Orthodontists have various appliances to address tongue thrusting and enhance orthodontic treatment. However, they can be uncomfortable or painful for many patients and are typically considered a last resort. Some appliances may need to be worn for up to a year before braces are applied. It’s important to explore different treatment options for tongue thrust correction, as an appliance can be used in conjunction with other methods.


Myofunctional Therapy for Tongue Thrust Before Orthodontic Treatment:


Another approach is myofunctional therapy for tongue thrust, which focuses on exercising the tongue and facial muscles to eliminate a tongue thrust. Research has shown that myofunctional therapy helps significantly by not only improving swallow but also the posture of tongue, improper muscle function, and reduces relapse of previous orthodontic treatments.


A speech therapist who is experienced in myofunctional therapy plays a crucial role in helping patients retrain their facial muscles and overcome the habit. These speech therapists specialize in guiding children and adults in gaining control over muscle patterns associated with tongue thrusting.


Sometimes, orthodintists will ask their patients to get myofunctional therapy for tongue thrust before getting braces in order to break the tongue thrusting habit. This way, orthodontic treatment can be more successful and permanent.


What a Normal Swallow Looks Like:



What a Tongue Thrust Swallow Looks Like:



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