Tongue Thrust

What is a Tongue Thrust?

A tongue thrust is the habit of thrusting the tongue against the teeth, or between the teeth, while swallowing. It is a learned pattern usually carried over from infancy into childhood by 60 to 90% of all children. It is usually self-correcting or bengin enough to be saftely ignored.

But because most people swallow some 1,000 to 4000 times a day, using four pounds of force for each swallow the force of the tongue thrust can cause moderate to severe dental and skeletal problems. When the problem is serious enough to cause moderate obvious symptoms, it is usually manifested by an open bite. An open bite is when the front teeth do not overlap adequately. Open bites are one of the most difficult problems to correct in orthodontics. Before any correction can be made, the cause of the open bite must be corrected.

Tongue thrusting can prevent the orthodontist from getting a good result. Worse, it can cause any correction that has been achieved to reverse when the braces are removed- even though retainers are being worn.

What Causes a Tongue Thrust?

No one specific cause can be identified for the origins of a tongue thrust. Some common causes are:

  • Artificial nipples used in feeding infants

  • An abnormally large tongue-known as macroglossia

  • During childhood when teeth are lost the tongue will seal the empty space during swallows.

  • Chronic sore throats with difficulty swallowing.

  • Thumb or finger sucking

  • Allergies, nasal congestion, or obstructions in the nasal passages can contribute to mouth breathing, proper tongue posture.

  • Emotional trauma


There is a simple exercise that with some self discipline and determination can reprogram your brain to swallow correctly. Correct swallowing is as easy 1-2-3

  • Place the tip of your tongue on the palatal gum tissue right above the back side of your upper front teeth.

  • Clench your teeth together

  • Swallow-Keeping the tip of your tongue up on your palate. Your tongue must not touch your teeth when you swallow.

Please practice this in the mirror two times a day for two minutes each time. Hold your lips apart with your fingers so that you can see that your tongue is NOT squishing up against your teeth. This is very important and will make a dramatic difference in how quickly we can finish your orthodontics.