Updated: Sep 26, 2018
Tongue thrusting is the habit of pushing your tongue forward between the upper and lower teeth when you swallow. The proper positioning for the tongue is for the tip to push against the gum above the back of your upper front teeth.
Why Is Tongue Thrusting Bad?
The tongue is a very powerful muscle – one that’s strong enough to push teeth out of their natural position. This bad swallowing habit is even more apparent when you realize that the average human swallows about 2,000 times a day! Over time, tongue thrusting can cause an open bite. This is when only the back teeth will come together during a bite – the front teeth won’t actually touch. As your trusted Omaha, NE orthodontist, we recommend treating this problem as soon as possible.
Our Tongue Thrust Exercise
For fixing this bad habit, we recommend this following exercise:
First, place a small orthodontic rubber band on the tip of your tongue.
Press the tip of your tongue against the gum in the roof of your mouth that’s right behind your upper front teeth.
Bite your teeth together in your regular bite; don’t bite forward.
Keep your lips apart.
Swallow. Make sure not to let your lips close or your teeth come apart. Also, please don’t panic if you accidentally swallow a rubber band – it will pass through your system without any problems.
Because you have a habit of pushing your tongue forward when you swallow, this exercise may be a little difficult to do in the beginning. However, with enough practice, it’s really not as hard as it may seem to be. We recommend doing two sets of 30 swallows every day, preferably once in the morning and again in the evening. While success will take some effort, when you manage to stop your tongue thrusting, your braces will be able to come off sooner and your teeth will stay in perfect alignment.
Another way to correct a tongue thrust is by doing exercises that teach your tongue muscles how to move properly so your tongue stays in the middle of your mouth during swallowing. Because the movements that occur when you swallow aren’t voluntary, retraining your tongue through exercise can be a long process, but it can be done.
Although it may not seem like it, swallowing takes quite a bit of muscular strength. And when your tongue is being thrusted during swallowing, it applies a large amount of pressure against your teeth. For children, tongue thrusting to the side can cause enough pressure that their adult molars do not come in properly because the tongue is constantly in the way, or they may end up being crooked. More commonly, the tongue pushes to the front of the mouth when swallowing and causes the front teeth to be pushed forward, creating an open bite, underbite, or overbite, depending on where the tongue hits the teeth.
While these issues can be corrected with orthodontic treatment, if the tongue thrust isn’t eliminated, over time it will most likely push the teeth out of alignment again. It can also drastically slow the progress of your orthodontic treatment because as the braces are moving your teeth into place, your tongue is pushing them out of place every time you swallow.