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Tongue Thrust Therapy

 

The tongue position when swallowing can be important indication of a person's health, and it can impact in the way they look and speak. Luckily, an abnormal tongue position can be corrected with Myofunctional therapy (a specialized training process that ensures a future of good health and a pleasing smile despite having a development condition)

This form of therapy is a method of exercising the mouth and facial muscles to correct a deviated swallow - often referred to as "tongue thrust". The condition can be found in adults and children with speech disorders as well as people with misaligned teeth. Myofunctional therapy is ultimately customized for the individual based on age, allowing the patient to swallow correctly as time goes on.

 

What to look for?

 

In orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMD) according to the American Speech Lenguahe Hearing Association, the tongue protrudes amid swallowing, speaking and even when at rest. This can affect the form and function of the mouth beyond the appearance of the thrusting tongue. Although normal in infants, the tongue's position should recede as a child develops. If the tongue position doesn't improve, however, it can cause other problems including:

Misaligned teeth

Thumb sucking

Teeth Grinding

Facial Pain

Speech Problems

Mouth breathing

Sleep apnea

Stomach aches

 

Often a child may exhibit one or more of these symptoms and will need to seek care to correct the swallowing disorder before the speech deficit or tooth problems can be corrected. In fact, the condition is easily picked up by an orthodontist who can gauge the progress of the treatment as slow or non-existent.

 

Its Effect on Oral Health

 

Keep in mind improper tongue placement when swallowing can contribute to malocclusions like an overbite, overjet and underbite. For this reason, people with an abnormal tongue position are also prone to tooth decay and gum disease due to a decrease in the self cleansing components of the normal tongue activity and saliva flow.

This is why regular dental care is crucial to recognizing and preventing dental problems - especially for younger patients. Another concern is digestive problems - improper swallowing can influence dietary choices and causes gastrointestinal issues affecting general health.

Myofunctional Therapy may help in the treatment of sleep apnea for both children and adults. In fact, recent studies by National Institute of Health (NIH) have shown this therapy helps to decrease sleep apnea by roughly 50 and 60 percent in adults and kids respectively. In adults, data showed increases in oxygen saturation with decreases in sleeplessness and snoring.

 

How It's done

 

Myofunctional therapy is performed by a professional who has either undergone advanced training in this specialty or carries a background in speech pathology. Eleanore Wright is an speech pathologist with studies and specialization on myofunctional therapy. 

 

The practice is based on individual needs but will most always include increasing awareness of the muscles in the mouth and face while gradually training the tongue into its proper position. This includes visual recognition of the face and mouth and corrective exercises that cater to those cosmetic needs. How can you help? Focus on an ideal swallowing pattern and uses the facial muscles and the tongue which eventually lead to an increase in muscle strength and coordination. The results should be proper tooth positioning , ideal pronunciations and efficient digestion.

The muscles of the face and mouth are designed to work together in a collaborative effort. By recognizing an orofacial myofunctional disorder early, you can help a child or adult overcome the hurdles that prevent them from using their mouths properly.