Tongue Thrust: What Parents Want to Know


Many people may not consider the importance that their tongue has when it comes to speech but it plays a major role in proper pronunciation and sound development.

As babies we all swallowed with a reverse pattern, pushing the tongue tip forward as opposed to keeping it behind our front teeth. Allowing the ability to expel liquid from a nipple or bottle. Typically, as a child ages and develops, a more mature swallow begins to develop. The tongue tip will no longer push forward past the front teeth as it will now press against the alveolar ridge (bumpy spot behind the two front teeth) while the middle, sides, and back of the tongue propel the liquid or food towards the throat. This mature pattern typically begins to develop around four years of age.

Tongue thrust, also known as a reverse or immature swallow, or orofacial muscular imbalance is most often identified when parents or teachers observe one or all of the following sounds /s, z, t, d, sh, ch, j/ with their child’s or student’s tongue protruding out of their mouth. Some may also observe that when at rest their child or student has an open mouth resting position and is considered a mouth breather.

Many parents often ask me where did these habits come from? While there are many possible influences that may have prevented the mature swallow pattern to develop. The most common causes include:

  1. Prolonged use of a pacifier or thumb sucking

  2. Prolonged use of sippy cups

  3. High arched or narrow palate

  4. Allergies

  5. Enlarged tonsils

  6. Hereditary

As with most speech diagnosis it is important to begin therapy as soon as possible to begin to replace the improper habits that are still developing. If left unaddressed a tongue thrust can lead to severe overbites which require extensive orthodontic work, and long term speech errors. Orthodontists highly recommend that the tongue thrust is remediated before any orthodontic work is completed as the tongue thrust will often undo any type of orthodontics.

While tongue thrusting typically requires intensive therapy to remediate your child’s habits the great news is that tongue thrust therapy is highly successful with committed and motivated clients and families. Most of the therapy entails working on correct tongue placement when eating, drinking, producing speech sounds, and at rest. The client will work directly with the speech therapist on activities and then practice them daily at home.

Give The Speech Spot a call today if your child is currently challenged with a tongue thrust and we can collaborate on fun and exciting tools to develop healthy habits!

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