Sometimes, people can’t help but get in their own way when trying to reach a goal, and getting straight teeth is no different. Orthodontists have to balance providing orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign with people’s habits that can get in the way of making progress. One habit many people don’t realize they have is called tongue thrusting, which can get in the way of the teeth straightening process.
What Is Tongue Thrusting?
Essentially, a tongue thrust is a bad form of swallowing people do without realizing it. Normally, people should swallow with their tongue firmly planted up against the palate. When someone has a tongue thrusting habit, they have learned to swallow the wrong way. Normally, kids start out with a bit of a tongue thrust but develop into the proper form of swallowing around age six or seven.
Tongue thrusting generally comes in two forms. One type involves pushing the tongue in between the front teeth while swallowing, which is called a reverse swallow. Another form is mouth breathing, which is the practice of leaving the mouth open during breathing. When swallowing, a mouth breather will typically spread the tongue between the upper and lower teeth instead of tipping the tongue upward toward the palate.
Why Is Tongue Thrust a Concern?
In kids, tongue thrusting is often a major factor in facial development. Reverse swallowing results in malocclusions where the front teeth are misaligned, often protruding forward with the direction of the tongue thrust. People with this habit also often develop TMD or jaw pain and can end up with misshapen jaws and spatial problems with their teeth. Due to the tongue resting away from the palate most of the time, the upper jaw develops into a sharper V-shape, resulting in crowding and a long, narrow face.
Early intervention can help fix these issues and make future orthodontic treatment with braces and Invisalign easier, but tongue thrusting will remain a concern during the treatment process if it is not addressed.
The Effect on Braces
Not only can this habit increase your need for braces or Invisalign, it can also slow down the progress of your orthodontic treatment. In the same way pressure from your braces or aligners moves your teeth, the pressure from your tongue can move your teeth in the wrong direction. Because of this, tongue thrusting can effectively work against the force of the braces or aligners, slowing down the correction process. It can also lead to the teeth shifting back to their original positions after treatment is over.
People who struggle with the habit of tongue thrusting can get some help to “relearn” how to swallow. Specialized orthodontic appliances can be applied to guide the tongue towards proper swallowing form. People can also get help from a myofunctional therapist and do exercises to eliminate the habit.
Learn more about orthodontic treatment and find the best options for you by scheduling your free consultation at Milnor Orthodontics today!