My dentist told me I have tongue thrust and gave me a few ways to break this habit, but I could use some more help. Is there any way I can get a better handle on my condition?
Tongue thrust is a behavioral pattern where the tongue protrudes through the front of the mouth when swallowing, talking, and even when your mouth is closed. As the tongue is forced between your front teeth, it can cause the teeth to protrude and become misaligned. This habit is often seen in children, but it can persist into adulthood as well. Although orthodontics can help fix your bite and your alignment, your teeth are likely to become misaligned again if your tongue thrust isn’t treated.
The good news is that there are many exercises you can do to help re-train your swallowing motion. We’ve listed a few below — try to do at least one of these exercises at least once a day, for about 30 repetitions or until the tongue is tired.
Exercise 1: Place the tip of the tongue against the roof of your mouth, right by the back of the upper teeth. Then, bite you teeth and swallow, while keeping your lips apart and your teeth together. This last part is very important — by keeping your lips apart and your teeth together, you’re preventing your tongue from thrusting forward.
Exercise 2: Take a very small sip of water and trap it between the tongue and the roof of the mouth. Keeping your teeth together and your lips apart, swallow the sip of water. If your tongue loses contact with your mouth and thrusts forward, the water will spill out. If you concentrate on keeping your teeth together and your tongue firmly in place, you’ll be able to swallow the water without spilling and, over time, will retrain your tongue not to push forward.
Exercise 3: After you’ve mastered the first two exercises, begin thinking about the way you swallow during meals. If any particular food gives you issues, remember to keep the tongue firmly against the gums by the back of the top teeth, and keep your teeth closed as you swallow. Keep practicing with that food until you are able to swallow it correctly.
If you’re having difficulty with these exercises, talk to your dentist about whether you should see an Orofacial Myologist. This is a specialist who treats tongue issues and can help provide more intensive correctional therapy. Do you have a tip for overcoming tongue thrust? Let us know about it in the comments!