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Tongue Thrust Habit

What is Tongue Thrusting?

A tongue thrust habit (also referred to as a Retained Infantile Swallow or a Reverse Swallow) is the habit of placing the tongue in the wrong position during swallowing, either too far forward or to the sides. This is usually a result of naso-respiratory issues. With normal nasal breathing, the tongue sits lightly up in the roof of the mouth, and during swallowing, the tongue presses upwards to put slight pressure on the palate to widen the palate. It is estimated that every 24 hours, you swallow a total of 1,200 to 2,000 times, with about four pounds of pressure per swallow. In patients who are obligate mouth breathers due to issues breathing from the nose, each time he/she swallows, the tongue sticks out or to the sides. This repeated pressure of the tongue will force the teeth and arches out of alignment. In addition to the pressure exerted while swallowing, nervous thrusting also pushes the tongue against the teeth while it is at rest. This is an involuntary, subconscious habit that is difficult to correct.

What are the Consequences to Tongue Thrusting?

The force of the tongue against the teeth is an important factor in contributing to a malocclusion (“bad bite”). Many orthodontists have had the discouraging experience of completing orthodontic treament, with great results, only to discover that the patient had a tongue thrust swallow pattern. This continual pattern will push the teeth out of alignment and tends to reverse the orthodontic work.

Tongue Tamers

Tongue Tamers or Habit Tamers are usually used behind two of you lower front teeth. They look like mini spikes that help to subconsciously train and remind your tongue to use the roof of your mouth to swallow instead of pushing against your teeth.

Common Problems

Because they are there to help remind your tongue to stay away from your front teeth, your tongue may feel sore or “raw” when you first get your Tongue Tamers. This is common in the first few weeks. Warm salt water rinses using one tablespoon of salt to one cup of warm water, and rinsing for 1­-2 minutes, will help alleviate initial discomfort.

Tongue tamers are smaller than your orthodontic brackets. Just like orthodontic brackets, you must be careful with what you eat. Occasionally, one may become dislodged. Please let our office know before you next appointment that it will need to be re­bonded at your next visit.