Tongue Thrust & Improper Tongue Rest Posture

Note the scalloped edges of the tongue, indicating the tongue is pressing against the teeth when at rest.

A simple definition of a tongue thrust is placing the tongue in the wrong place during swallowing, usually too far forward or to the sides. It is now known that keeping the tongue in the wrong place while the mouth is at rest for many hours each day is more responsible for damage than the tongue thrust swallow.

Where does your tongue belong when it is at rest? Against your palate-in the roof of your mouth.  This pulls the back of the tongue up out of the airway and removes improper pressure on your teeth that can cause problems. Learning to swallow correctly improves digestion and relieves discomfort.

Establishing proper rest posture of the tongue and retraining a tongue thrust swallowing pattern  to a healthy swallow can help to:

  •  Guide the teeth into a more desirable relationship during  the growth and development years
  • Assist the orthodontist in aligning the teeth and jaws properly
  • Assist stabilization of the teeth during and/or after orthodontic treatment and/or surgery
  •  Enhance overall appearance
  • Allow clear enunciation of all speech sounds (please note that we do not do speech therapy but often the speech is  improved after orofacial myotherapy)

What are the chances for success?  Dr. Gary Hirsch of Braces San Diego has expressed it this way on his website:

“ With sincere commitment and cooperation of the child and parent, and if there is no neuromuscular involvement, correction is possible in most cases. At the present time, successful correction of tongue thrust appears in 75% of treated cases, 20% of patients are unsuccessful due to poor cooperation and lack of commitment by parents and patients, and the remaining 5% are unsuccessful due to other factors that make correction impossible, such as physical or mental development problems.”

“Generally, the tongue thrust swallowing pattern may be handled in two ways:

  1. Correction by MyoFunctional Therapy (another name for Orofacial
    Myotherapy)…, which is an exercise technique that re-educates the
    tongue muscles. It is similar to “physical therapy” for the tongue,
    which is taught by a trained therapist. There are in-office visits and
    home exercises. The length of therapy is based upon the patient’s
    cooperation and dedication. Therapy has proven to give the highest
    percentage of favorable results.
    (newer data shows over an 80%
    success rate)
  2. An appliance that is placed in the mouth by the dentist or orthodontist, which is generally not very successful. It is simply a punishment for the tongue instead of retraining.

Tongue thrusting (and improper tongue rest posture) is the reason for misalignment and bite problems for nearly half of Orthodontic patients. Tongue therapy is usually completed during Orthodontic treatment.”

When Mira Kirkland began her training in Orofacial Myotherapy she was amazed to learn that she had a mild tongue thrust and low tongue rest posture.  Correcting this has resulted in greater ease in swallowing (especially pills), better digestion, fewer spills on her clothing during meals and improvement in TMJ dysfunction symptoms and it is easier to breathe. Needless to say, she is enthusiastic about sharing this therapy with others.  Why didn’t someone tell her sooner?  She’s telling you now!