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Tongue Thrust Therapy

Tongue thrust is the most common Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD). Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders are anatomical and physiological differences of oral and facial structures (lips, teeth, tongue, jaw, cheeks, and palate) that are noticeably different; interfere with normal dentofacial, speech, physical or psychosocial development; or that are of cosmetic concern. These include lip and tongue rest, swallow, and speech posture differences. (Hale, Kellum, & Gross 1991) Research has found an 81% prevalence of OMD disorders in children exhibiting speech problems (Maul, et. Al, 1999) compared to a prevalence of 38% in the general population (Kellum, 1992).

Should I Be Concerned About Tongue Thrusting?

Orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMD) may have a negative effect on the development of the dentition and speech. The pattern of when teeth erupt and/or the alignment of the teeth and jaw may be negatively affected. The function of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) may be negatively influenced. For patients in orthodontic treatment, OMD therapy can help stabilize the orthodontic result and help in the retention of the treatment. Speech disorders often co-exist with OMD. Some children develop sound errors as a result of OMD. OMD most often causes sounds like “s,” “z,” “sh,” “zh,” “ch,” and “j” to sound different than they usually do. For example, the word “sink” may sound like “think.” Because of ineffective tongue tip muscles, sounds may be misarticulated. Not all children with an OMD such as tongue thrust have an associated speech disorder. If tongue thrusting and sound errors exist, remediation of the tongue thrusting pattern is essential to correcting the speech.

Some people who have a tongue thrusting pattern have difficulty maintaining a closed mouth while chewing and swallowing, and lose control of the food in their mouth. An open chewing pattern may be caused by inefficient oral motor control. An open chewing pattern during meals may be visually offensive to others and may contribute to reduced social interactions.

What is the treatment for OMD?

The success of a therapy program is dependent on several factors, and a team effort is essential. A licensed speech-language pathologist can evaluate and treat open-mouth posture, swallowing disorders, and speech misarticulations that result from OMD. Speech-language pathologists specialize in evaluating lip, palate, tongue, and facial muscles, both at rest and during the complex movements needed to produce clear speech and adequate swallowing. Other team members may include parents, the pediatrician, ENT doctor, dentist and/or orthodontist.

Not all treatment plans are created equal. With varying degrees of severity among individuals, it’s important to match the treatment to the patient. Here at GraniteBaySpeech we tailor our tongue thrust programs to fit your individual needs.

How Do I know if I Need Tongue Thrust Therapy?

You may need tongue thrust therapy, also called myofunctional therapy, if you answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • Has your dentist or orthodontist diagnosed you with tongue thrust?
  • Are your teeth or your bite out of alignment?
  • Is your dentist concerned that tongue thrust will affect your child’s eruption of teeth and the alignment of their teeth and bite?
  • Are there concerns about the effectiveness of braces or the retention of your straight teeth after orthodontic treatment?
  • Are you experiencing slow or ineffective therapy for a lisping pattern?
  • Does your child suck their thumb, bite their nails, or other objects?
  • Does tongue thrusting draw negative attention to your speech and interfere with your social or professional life?

What Causes Tongue Thrusting and Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD)?

  • Oral habits such as excessive thumb- or finger-sucking, lip/cheek and fingernail biting, lip licking, and teeth clenching and grinding.
  • Family heredity can be involved in determining such factors as the size of the child’s mouth, the arrangement and number of teeth, and the effectiveness of lip, tongue, mouth, and facial muscles.
  • A restricted nasal airway due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids may create an open-mouth breathing pattern. Environmental factors that contribute to airway difficulties include allergies.
  • Neurological or developmental abnormalities.
  • Abnormally large tongue, short lingual frenulum (tongue-tie), or other structural or physiological abnormalities.

Is there scientific evidence that OMD therapy is effective?

Recent scientific studies have shown that treatment for OMD may be 80-90% effective in correcting swallowing and rest posture function. These corrections are retained years after completing therapy (Hahn & Hahn, 1992). Some insurance companies cover OMD therapy as a necessary medical intervention.

How do I find out more about Tongue Thrust Therapy and OMD treatment?

Granite Bay Speech provides a free phone consultation to answer your questions about tongue thrust. A tongue thrust disorder is not considered educationally relevant, and therefore a child will not be eligible for public school speech therapy service for tongue thrusting.