Putting Your Child’s Tongue Back Where It Belongs
Does your child always have his or her mouth slightly open? Are your child’s lips dry or cracked from excessive licking? These are signs of tongue thrust, a common childhood condition that involves inappropriate placement of the tongue when swallowing or at rest. Tongue thrust can cause speech issues as well as dental problems.
Children with this condition tend to thrust their tongues forward against the lips when swallowing. This motion puts pressure on the front teeth—around four pounds with each swallow—which can eventually cause an overbite, or protruding or misaligned teeth.
Experts believe that between 67% and 95% of children ages 5 through 8 years have tongue thrust, yet the condition usually goes unnoticed until a dental or speech problem arises. While some blame heredity, a larger-than-average tongue or such habits as thumb-sucking might contribute to tongue thrusting, no one knows what causes tongue thrust. We may notice signs of the condition and bring it to your attention, but you can also ask Dr. Jared to check for tongue thrust if you suspect it may be present in your child.
Depending on your child’s age and whether other structural issues are at play, treatment for tongue thrust typically involves oral habit training. A speech therapist works with your child to correct the swallowing pattern and retrain the muscles in the jaw and mouth to work properly. We may also recommend that a special appliance be put in your child’s mouth to help correct the tongue’s position.
While it isn’t a serious health problem, tongue thrust can wreak havoc on your child’s bite and jaw alignment. Unfortunately, the most difficult problem is the diagnosis; usually, your child’s pediatric dentist or pediatrician can detect the problem. Tongue thrust is a major contributor to the need for further dental work. If left untreated, tongue thrusters can essentially “undo” the process of wearing braces by pushing newly straightened teeth out of alignment.
The sooner tongue thrust is diagnosed, the easier it will be to fix, avoiding future dental problems. If you suspect your child might have tongue thrust, bring it up at his or her next dental checkup at KiDDS Dental along with any questions you might have.
Give us a call at 509-891-7070 to schedule today!