Does your child have an open bite? It is probably due to a tongue thrust.
In this condition, the tongue presses forward further in the mouth.
This comes from swallowing milk by breastfeeding or through bottles.
Usually, children overcome this habit by they are six years old.
This is when they start using their oral muscle.
However, those who do not, develop this orofacial myofunctional disorder.
Soon, your child will have permanent teeth and this disorder can misalign them alongside leading to other dental problems.
This article discusses what problems it can cause and how you can treat them. Keep reading to know more.
Baby Tongue Thrust
It is normal for a baby’s tongue to come forward while they are breastfeeding or are taking milk from bottles.
This reflex develops as the tongue comes forward so that they can drink properly.
They will continue sticking out their tongue for at least 5 to 6 months and that is completely normal rather prevents choking while they are getting fed.
Over time there swallowing reflexes and speaking patterns emerge and evolve.
Though your child should also give up on bottles and pacifiers.
Otherwise, the thrusting may continue into early childhood and cause dental problems.
The cause isn’t limited to feeding rather also includes:
- Tongue-tie – this is a condition present at birth where the tissue found underneath the tongue is either short or tight
- Thumb sucking and other sucking habits that carry on for a long time
- They may have a unique swallowing pattern i.e. reverse swallow
- Swollen tonsils can cause allergies which can result in thrusting
The tongue can push forward and sometimes it presses onto the back teeth.
This will be more visible when they are speaking and swallowing.
Hence, there are signs when the forward movement is more apparent.
Signs of Tongue Thrust
Your infant might breathe through the mouth rather than using their nose.
Furthermore, their eating will either be very slow, fast or overall messy.
You will notice that their tongue sticks out visibly from between their teeth.
This happens especially when they are resting, speaking or swallowing food.
Moreover, they may start lisping.
Pay attention to how they speak the “s” and “z” sounds which may hint towards a speech impediment.
Also, they will have a dental problem i.e an open bite.
This is why their front teeth may not meet when they close their mouth and also their lips do not close.
Do Adults Have It Too?
A tongue thrust baby may not be able to chew and sucking properly.
However, adults may continue having this problem too.
If you do not treat it timely in childhood, then it will follow you into adulthood till you get proper treatment.
Though rarely it is also possible to get it even if you did not have the condition back in childhood.
It can result from allergies that you persistently have for a long time.
Similarly, adenoids and tonsils chronic swelling can cause your tongue to push forward.
They can constrict your throat cavity hence, breathing becomes difficult.
As a result, your tongues come forward to assist in breathing.
Stress can cause oral health problems such as teeth grinding and thrusting is caused by it too.
You may be thrusting your tongue during sleep however, you may not be a messy eater.
Though the rest of the symptoms can be the same for children or adults.
Your tongue may stick out apparently between your teeth and you may unknowingly be breathing more through your mouth.
It is hard to close your mouth and lips, plus it is even difficult to swallow.
Hence, these cause your face to become more elongated.
Also, your tongue will be longer than the normal size.
When your teeth will not meet, it will cause an overbite which does not let you bite your food properly.
Hence, you will have trouble eating a few food items that require you to bite using the front teeth.
These include lettuce and lunch meat which you may only chew using the back teeth rather than bite from the front ones.
Babies hardly need treatment as it can go away after 5 to 6 months.
However, older children and infants need to consult their doctor soon to avoid oral problems.
Do not worry if your infant baby has this condition.
However, notice these signs in your child when they get older:
- difficulty while chewing food
- swallowing is tough
- they keep sucking for a long time
- tongue resting in the wrong position
- mouth breathing
- open resting lips
If these signs exist your toddler may need to go to a healthcare professional soon.
A general practitioner, dentist, pediatrician, orthodontist, and speech language pathologist can diagnose it.
Any of these health professionals can look at your speaking and swallowing pattern to find out about it.
They will pull down the bottom lip to notice you or your child’s swallowing pattern.
This will help them see where your tongue naturally goes when you swallow.
Your dentist can notice your overbite and look into treatments with an orthodontist.
Plus if a pediatrician checks your child they may further refer them to a speech-language pathologist, gastroenterologist or ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist.
If you do not diagnose and treat the condition on time, it can result in certain complications.
Without treating your condition, you are giving rise to an oral health problem.
Your teeth may become malformed as your tongue pushes against the backside of your teeth.
The constant pressure causes your upper front teeth to protrude forward, creating a gap between the lower and top front teeth.
Hence, they do not meet forming an open bite.
You will need proper treatment like teeth braces to correct them.
Additionally, you may develop a lisp that can remain over years.
Also, your tongue may be apparent from between your teeth when you speak.
Furthermore, these actions will cause your face to elongate and as an adult, you will have a longer face than you would have had without the thrusting.
Hence, visit your doctor soon for treatment.
Tongue Thrust Treatment
Your orthodontist may recommend putting a tongue crib in the roof of a child’s mouth.
While they place it, it helps to correct their open bite.
Similarly, braces and other orthodontic devices can correct the shape of your teeth.
Your doctor may also recommend you to get orofacial myology.
This tongue thrust therapy works on the placement of your tongue, lips and jaw.
Furthermore, it improves swallowing and lets you swallow food easily.
However, if you do not undergo therapy and only treatment then these problems may persist.
Moreover, these issues are usually related.
For instance, you need to breathe properly in order to swallow properly too.
Hence, they will look into treatment for your nasal and breathing problems alongside any allergies that are preventing you from breathing properly and cause thrusting.
Besides, the position of your tongue, teeth and breathing problems, you also need to correct the lisp.
Your child can start going to a speech therapist by the time they are 8 years old.
Their speech therapy will last for three to five months of consecutive weekly sessions.
Furthermore, you can follow up after four to six months to check their progress and improvement.
In the meanwhile, the speech therapist will give you exercises and activities to follow through with your child.
This prevents them from falling back into the pattern.
Moreover, their speech therapist will go beyond correcting their speech impediments.
They will also guide them over correcting their mouth position and also in swallowing solid foods, liquids as well as saliva.
These activities and exercises help to further resolve any problems.
Hence, giving your child a chance to swallow, chew and speak properly.
If your doctor finds some other reason behind the thrusting, they will recommend treatment for the underlying condition.
Can You Get Rid of This Condition?
Yes! It is completely possible to treat this condition in both adults and children.
Your baby’s thrusting will subside by the time they start eating solid foods.
They no longer have to use their tongue to push food when they are four to six months old.
Instead, they develop the coordination to help the food move from the front to the back where it is swallowed.
However, if you notice any of the symptoms persisting, you should consult your doctor.
It will be noticeable because on average humans swallow about 2000 times a day.
Issues with that will be obvious to parents.
A general physician or pediatrician can also diagnose it but may recommend you to go to a speech therapist or dentist.
It is crucial to detect and treat it timely as this condition can create a problem when permanent teeth eruption takes place.
For that, you will need to visit a dentist for orthodontic treatment and to look into other treatment options as well.
Having an overbite means you are unable to bite into some foods and do not have straight teeth.
Though that’s not it!
Your child may also develop a lisp soon.
What’s worse, if it continues well into adulthood then they will have an elongated face.
Hence, if you want your child’s teeth, face and language abilities to grow normally, then make sure they do not have any tongue thrust.
While you can treat it anytime, it is better to diagnose and treat it as soon as you can in their childhood.