What Causes a Tongue Thrust?


Many factors affecting oral development can have serious impacts on dental health, especially for children. We want to help give our youngest patients the best start in life possible. Therefore, in addition to the teeth themselves, it’s important to recognize other issues – like tongue thrust – that affect the muscles of the mouth, face, and throat. This condition can often be treated, usually through an orthodontic device or therapy, but it helps to know what causes a tongue thrust and what to look for.

What Causes a Tongue Thrust?

When a baby is bottle or breast-fed, it’s normal for them to demonstrate tongue thrust. Tongue thrust is characterized by too much forward movement of the tongue when swallowing or speaking. As a child grows and stops using bottles or pacifiers, this behavior normally resolves itself. Some factors can cause tongue thrust to persist, however, including allergies, reverse swallowing patterns, tongue-tie, and prolonged thumb sucking.

Without treatment, patients with tongue thrust can face difficulties into adulthood. As a result, eating, swallowing, sleeping, and tooth and gum health can be affected.

Signs of a Tongue Thrust

Patients with a tongue thrust can face serious orthodontic issues as they continue to grow. Here are some of the most obvious signs to look out for:

  • An “open bite”
  • Tongue is visible between the teeth
  • Inability of difficulty closing the mouth
  • Speech impediments or difficulty while speaking
  • Messy or sloppy eating
  • Breathing through the mouth

Of course, some of these issues are natural for a growing baby – like messy eating – and will go away as they develop and gain more control. But if the symptoms persist, it could indicate an oral condition like tongue thrust or another myofunctional disorder.

Get Help from Your Dentist

Trained and observant dental professionals understand what causes a tongue thrust and have experience in identifying these types of conditions in pediatric patients. Your dentist should be able to help with therapy recommendations and other treatment options. Dr. Mullins at My Family Dentistry practices the latest techniques in pediatric dentistry and knows the signs. He can provide you with the information and guidance you need to make informed decisions about your family’s dental and oral health.

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