Is your child an exceptionally messy eater?

Does it seem like they’re breathing mostly or entirely through their mouth?

Are they having trouble making certain sounds, like S or Z?

If so, they may have orofacial mofunctional disorder, more commonly known as tongue thrust.

Tongue thrust is a developmental issue among young children which can lead to a number of complications down the road.

However, there is hope. You child can overcome their tongue thrust issues with the help of speech language therapy.

Read on to find out more about this condition, and how pediatric speech therapy can help in treating it.

What Is Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?

If your child has tongue thrust, they press (or thrust) their tongue against their lips to create a seal in their mouth so they can swallow.

It’s fairly common for infants to do this, but most children end up growing out of it by the time they start teething (4-6 months). If tongue thrust persists into toddlerhood, it is uncommon for children to still have it past 4 years of age. But if it does, tongue thrust can cause a number of health complications down the road.

This is because tongue thrusting creates pressure against the front teeth. This can cause alignment issues, causing them to need service from an orthodontist later in life. It can also cause an overbite, and may cause problems with their speech development.

If you notice your child is tongue thrusting, book an appointment with District Speech. We can build a treatment plan to help them develop a new swallowing pattern that avoids the issues involved with tongue thrusting

How Can I Tell If My Child Is Tongue Thrusting?

There are a number of telltale signs that your child is tongue thrusting. Watch for these, and if you notice any of the below signs, book an appointment with District Speech:

Difficulty Eating

If your child eats either exceptionally slow or fast, or is overly messy, it could be a sign of tongue thrust. This is sometimes the first sign parents notice in their children.

Mouth Breathing

Children with tongue thrust often have difficulty breathing through their nose. This can lead to poor tongue posture, since the tongue and lower jaw have to assume different positions than what they naturally would.

This can push teeth into abnormal position and lead to issues in facial growth.

Difficulty Closing Their Lips

Naturally, a crucial part of having one’s mouth function properly is being able to close it. If your child is mouth breathing, they’ll likely get in the habit of keeping their mouth open all the time, including during sleep. This can cause abnormalities in growth.

If your child isn’t closing their mouth, it could be a bad habit they’ve picked up. However, it could also be a result of a structural issue.

A Visible Tongue

If your child is tongue thrusting, the tip of their tongue will stick out between their teeth. This is often the case whether they’re swallowing, speaking, or not doing anything in particular.

Having A Bite That Doesn’t Fully Close

If your child is tongue thrusting, it can impact their bite in many ways. One of them is that their upper and lower teeth don’t meet when they close their mouth.

Speech Difficulties

Because of the abnormal nature of tongue thrusting, your child may have difficulty creating certain sounds. In particular, they may have difficulty with the letters S or Z.

What Causes Tongue Thrust?

Tongue thrust has a number of different potential causes, which include:

  • Allergies
  • An enlarged tongue or tonsils
  • A thumb-sucking habit
  • A lip biting habit
  • A nail-biting habit
  • A clenching or grinding habit
  • Heredity
  • Nasal congestion
  • Structural issues

Can Adults Have Tongue Thrust?

Yes. You may develop tongue thrust in adulthood, but this is rare. The vast majority of adult tongue thrust cases are because they had tongue thrust as a child and it wasn’t treated.

All the above causes are still applicable, but if you’re under chronic stress it may aggravate things.

Speech Therapy For Tongue Thrust

If your child has tongue thrust, or if you’re an adult who suspects you may have tongue thrust, there is hope. Treatment is similar regardless of age.

In order to address this issue, your team may include a(n):

  • Orthodontist
  • Ear, nose, & throat specialist (ENT)
  • Allergist
  • Family doctor
  • Oral physiotherapist
  • And of course, a speech therapist

From a speech therapy perspective, your speech therapist from District Speech will put together a treatment plan based on your or your child’s unique needs. The goal of this plan is to establish normal speech and swallowing habits.

During the first session, your speech therapist will evaluate your swallowing and articulation abilities. In some cases, we may find only swallowing issues with no articulation problems. In this case, treatment tends to be shorter and simpler. However, if you’re having issues articulating, treatment generally takes longer.

However your tongue thrust disorder manifests itself, however, there is hope. Tongue thrust is a highly treatable condition, one which the vast majority of patients can fully recover from.

Book An Appointment With District Speech

If you suspect your child may have tongue thrust, early intervention is key. The earlier you can address their bad habits, the easier it is to correct them.

Just like any habit, the longer you’ve had to establish them, the more difficult it is to break.

However, even if you’ve had tongue thrust well into adulthood, adult speech therapy is usually effective.

To find out how you can move past your tongue thrusting issues, book an appointment with District Speech today.

You’ll get a chance to meet with one of our experienced and licensed speech pathologists, who will help you understand your issues and what treatment may look like.

Tongue thrust can lead to a number of issues down the road, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Book an appointment with District Speech today, and find out how you can address your tongue thrust issues.

Have a speech concern? District Speech can help. 

Contact us today to find out how.