Julie West BS RDH
During your child’s dental exam, the hygienist and dentist will evaluate your child’s bite to see if the teeth align properly. As your child’s adult teeth start to emerge, the dentist will determine if orthodontics are recommended. Most children who get braces will have straight, aligned teeth in a year or two. However, if your child has a tongue thrusting habit, they may be back in those braces before you know it.
Tongue thrusting habit is a condition in which the tongue makes contact with any teeth other than the molars during swallowing. It is considered an orofacial myofunctional disorder. Although a tongue thrust is normal in infancy, development moves the tongue upward to form the shape of the palate, and the tongue thrust usually decreases and disappears as a child grows. If the tongue thrust continues, a child may look, speak, and swallow differently than other children the same ago. Older children may become self-conscious about their appearance.
The tongue is a strong muscle, and its constant pressure on the back of the front teeth can cause them to protrude outward. Over time, this may lead to the front teeth not touching in what is called an “open bite”. Although orthodontics can correct this, if the habit is not stopped, the teeth will eventually move out again. In fact, many orthodontists have families seek therapy to correct tongue thrust before braces are put on to ensure treatment is successful.
A child’s speech may also be affected by tongue thrust habit. One study sampled a group of children, half with tongue thrust, half without, and found that 86% of the children with tongue thrust exhibited lisping as compared to 0% of the children without tongue thrust. Research examining various populations found 38% have orofacial myofunctional disorders and an incidence of 81% has been found in children exhibiting speech/articulation problems.
A speech therapist, myofunctional therapist, orthodontist, and your dentist can all help correct this habit in your child and restore their occlusion
Below is a picture of a child with tongue thrust and an open bite:
Image source: healthline24x7.com
For more information on tongue thrust, please visit: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/OMD.htm
And ask your dentist or hygienist at your child’s next appointment!
Dixit UB, Shetty RM. Comparison of soft-tissue, dental, and skeletal characteristics in children with and without tongue thrusting habit. Contemp Clin Dent 2013;4:2-6