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Tongue Thrust Intervention


What is tongue thrust?


Tongue thrusting is the act of pressing the tongue against or between the front teeth during the swallow.  This is normal for early feeding.  Babies thrust their tongues forward for easy, efficient nursing.  More efficient tongue movements gradually replace this infantile swallow pattern as the child’s mouth muscles mature.  Children usually accomplish this transition by the age of three years.


What are the signs of a tongue thrust?


Tongue thrusting may cause dental alignment problems.  Your dentist will identify these problems and recommend appropriate treatments and referrals.  The signs of tongue thrusting may include:


  • Tongue protrusion when swallowing

  • Tongue protrusion to meet the food or liquid

  • Use of liquids to wash down foods

  • Resting the tongue between or against the teeth

  • Breathing with an open mouth

  • Suckling the fingers, thumb or tongue

  • Protruding front teeth


When Should I seek help to correct my tongue thrust pattern?


Tongue thrusting beyond the age of seven years requires intervention.


How long does it take to correct a tongue thrust?


Intervention consists of a brief, structured program to teach tongue control while swallowing, speaking and relaxing.


Does tongue thrusting affect speech sound production?


Tongue protrusion during the swallow may result in use of the same protrusion pattern during production of sounds.  Sounds potential affected include “s”, “t”, “d”, “n”, “l”, “sh”,,”ch”, and “j”.  These are considered articulation errors and require therapy in addition to tongue thrust management.

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