When a tongue thrust in a child is recognized by a Pediatrician, Orthodontist or Dentist, a Speech Therapist should be included in the assessment and treatment. A Speech Language Therapist can assess the root cause and assist in altering the behavior causing the problem.
As Maria Del Duca states in her guest post on Smart Speech Therapy “A tongue thrust occurs when one’s tongue is pushed against or between the front teeth during a swallow. This should not be confused with a frontal lisp.”
A frontal lisp occurs when the tongue protrudes between the front teeth and the air-flow is directed forwards. A tongue thrust occurs during the swallowing process. So, the objective when treating a tongue thrust is to develop appropriate behavior for tongue placement during the swallowing process; and also when eating or even at rest. However, a lisp can develop if the tongue thrust is not corrected because the teeth structure can be altered by this unnatural swallowing behavior.
There are different types of swallowing dysfunctions, also referred to as Dysphagia. This comes from the fact that there are different phases of the swallowing process. One is the oral phase which is the part of the process that occurs in the mouth, called the Buccal phase. Another phase is in the throat called the pharyngeal phase. And then the esophagus, called the esophageal phase. A child with tongue thrust will have difficulty during the oral phase (Buccal phase) of the swallowing process.
The etiology or cause of a tongue thrust is uncertain but possibilities include: weak oral muscles, pacifiers, thumb sucking, or mouth breathing.
Many adults are often referred for treatment because, although they wore braces in their teens to correct their teeth, the tongue thrust was not corrected. As a result, years later, their teeth have shifted and they must wear braces again.
Treatment of a Tongue Thrust that is affecting the swallowing process, and possibly the dental structure, include tongue strengthening, ensuring proper placement of the tongue while eating and swallowing and other behavioral modifications as determined necessary by the Speech pathologist. The Speech pathologist and Dentist (or Orthodontist) will often work closely together to ensure that dental corrections are not attempted too soon before the swallowing and eating behavior are modified appropriately.
If you feel you or your child is experiencing tongue thrust, or any swallowing problem, contact Beth Fine of Fine Communication. Beth has extensive experience in treating this dysfunction.