Treating Tongue Thrusts
If you are experiencing discomfort because of the way you swallow, it is possible that you need an orthodontist experienced in treating tongue thrusts. Here is what you need to know.
When evaluating a patient and identifying their orthodontic needs, we can often recognize that the patient has a poorly functioning tongue. What does that mean to us? A poorly functioning tongue can have a great impact on whether or not we will be able to treat this patient efficiently – and whether we will have stability afterwards.
Treating Tongue Thrusts | Swallowing Problems
A properly functioning tongue rests against the roof of the mouth during breathing and swallowing and is placed behind the upper front teeth during the swallowing pattern. We often see patients who come into the office with what is described as a tongue thrust, meaning that the patient protrudes the tongue between their anterior teeth or brings it forward against their front teeth during the swallow. Other patients may have what’s called a lateral tongue thrust. When that type of patient swallows, the tongue is placed between their posterior teeth and stabilizes the teeth during the swallowing pattern.
Treating Tongue Thrusts | Correcting the Issue
Abnormal tongue patterns during swallowing must be corrected in order to be efficient and achieve stable orthodontic outcomes. We can do certain things in the office to treat these conditions, but our feeling is that, if there is a problem with the structural relationship between the upper and lower jaw, it is more important to correct that structural relationship first and train the swallow and resting posture of the tongue afterwards. It’s hard to ask a tongue to fit into a space that’s too small for it, although that space being too small might, in fact, have been caused by the tongue. We will often do some preliminary orthodontics and then use appliances in an attempt to retrain a swallow. If our efforts are not successful, the patient can be referred outside the office to either a mild functional therapist or a speech pathologist to treat an abnormal swallowing pattern.
If you want to know more about our experience treating tongue thrusts, please call any of our five WNY locations today for a free screening with one of our experienced orthodontists.