Tongue thrust – can damage teeth

Tongue thrust…what is it? Our bodies are always breathing, blinking, staying balanced, and doing a thousand other things we don’t notice to stay healthy and happy. But, the side effects of doing these unconscious behaviors wrong may create health problems that often go unnoticed or untreated.

Take, for example, the way people chew and swallow food. For nearly everyone, consuming food comes naturally and we never consciously think about the way we do it. But, doing it wrong can have nasty consequences. Infants swallow with their tongues thrust against their gums, which is fine for babies and very young children, but not for adolescents, teenagers, or adults.

Tongue thrust

As humans grow, most of us stop chewing like this and develop the ability to chew and swallow the right way by about age 7. Yet, some people never stop swallowing with their tongues against their teeth. This is medically known as “orofacial muscular imbalance,” or in nonmedical terms, tongue thrusts.

Believe it or not, tongue thrusts, or tongue thrusting, can cause serious problems over time. This is especially true as children are growing from young ages into adolescence and up.

Human beings swallow between 1,000 and 2,000 times a day. As you chew and swallow, the tongue puts about four pounds of pressure on whatever surface it’s against. Lucky for non-tongue thrusters, the roof of your mouth can take this pressure, but for those other people, their teeth cannot.

In the long run, this pressure will push the front teeth forward, and apart from the lower teeth. This affects jaw growth and causes the front and lower teeth to create space between them, forming what’s known as an “open bite.”

The best way to treat bad bites and jaw problems caused by tongue thrusting is not to stop eating food, but with orthodontic treatment. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that all children have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7. This checkup can catch many different problems early enough for orthodontic treatment to be effective, including those caused by tongue thrusting.

At Garrett & Boyd Orthodontics, we evaluate tongue thrust and what type of braces and appliances can bring teeth back to correct positions and fix any adverse jaw growth caught early enough in child growing stages. If not caught early enough, surgery as an adult is the only alternative method to fix these problems.

Remember, any underlying causes of tongue thrust have to be addressed to maintain the orthodontic correction. This includes mouth breathing, allergies and adenoids. If these causes are not addressed, the orthodontic correction may relapse. Don’t forget wearing a retainer is a must after any successful treatment to maintain correct positions. It’s important to take notice of your child’s chewing habits and be aware of any orthodontic problems that may hinder a healthy and beautiful smile.

Garrett & Boyd Orthodontics is happy to help determine if your child is a candidate for early orthodontic preventive treatment. Please don’t hesitate to contact our Sugar Land or Rosenberg office and schedule a free consultation today.