Tongue Thrust Speech Therapy

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Tongue Thrust Speech Therapist

Tongue Thrust Speech Therapist

Why is Tongue Thrust a Problem?

Tongue thrust can be problematic due to its association with various physical characteristics and functional issues. These include a retruding lower jaw, a face that is long or narrow in shape, weak muscles in the lips and neck, elongated nose, and an abnormal airway passage. Additionally, tongue thrust may cause abnormal palate development, a shortened lingual frenulum, and an open bite, which occurs when the front teeth are unable to meet.

Symptoms of tongue thrust, as identified by the American Speech Language Hearing Association, include the protrusion of the tongue between or against the upper and/or lower front teeth when making certain sounds such as /s/, /z/, /t/, /d/, /n/, /l/, or /sh/. Individuals with tongue thrust also tend to have a habit of resting with their mouth open and the lips apart, with the tongue resting against the upper and/or lower teeth. Cracked, chapped, or sore lips from excessive wetness or licking, as well as frequent mouth breathing despite no allergies or nasal congestion, can also be signs of tongue thrust.

Another instinctive behavior in babies and young children is sucking, which is considered normal during early childhood. However, when these behaviors persist beyond this stage, they can become problematic. Tongue thrusting may be accompanied by thumb or finger sucking, which can lead to significant distortions in the positioning of the teeth and facial bones. Additionally, some individuals may experience myofunctional disorder, which is characterized by improper tongue placement and function. This disorder can further exacerbate the issues associated with tongue thrust and digit sucking, leading to difficulties in speech, swallowing, and proper oral development. Fortunately, targeted behavioral programs that provide positive reinforcement and coaching can help eliminate these habits and address the issues associated with tongue thrust, digit sucking, and myofunctional disorder. Through these programs, individuals can learn proper tongue posture, breathing patterns, and oral habits, promoting healthy growth and development of the teeth, jaw, and surrounding structures.

After reaching the age of 5 or 6, tongue thrusting becomes an atypical habit where the tongue is positioned between the teeth prior to and during the act of swallowing. If this habit persists, it can lead to various difficulties for your child, such as distinct appearances, speech issues, and altered swallowing patterns compared to their peers.

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What can therapy do?

Tongue-thrust therapy, led by a speech language pathologist, aims to restore the delicate balance between the muscles of the tongue, lips, and cheeks. Through targeted interventions and exercises, this therapy helps address any imbalances in these muscles, which can put harmful pressure on the overall dental alignment. By reducing this pressure and promoting proper muscle coordination, tongue-thrust therapy can effectively alleviate malocclusions, improving oral health and alignment.

A comprehensive therapy approach can effectively address anatomical issues like a restricted lingual frenulum, narrow palate, or excessive overjet. Additionally, it focuses on resolving physiological concerns like allergies. The orofacial myofunctional therapist plays a crucial role in leading a program specifically designed to cease sucking habits. After successfully eliminating these habits, the treatment aims to enhance muscle awareness, activate and strengthen the relevant muscles, restore normal neuromuscular functions, establish consistent routines to develop new patterns, and ultimately foster positive habits for long-term normalization.

Goals of tongue-thrust speech therapy

Goals of tongue-thrust speech therapy

Correction of tongue-thrust speech therapy aims to achieve several key goals in order to improve oral function and speech production. These goals include:

1. Building awareness of healthy and correct oral behaviors: Tongue-thrust therapy builds awareness of healthy oral behaviors by teaching proper tongue, lip, and jaw placement during activities like speaking, chewing, and swallowing.

2. Developing appropriate motivation to change habitual actions: In order to reshape oral behaviors, individuals need to be motivated and willing to make changes. Tongue-thrust therapy focuses on fostering the necessary motivation to modify existing habits and adopt new, more functional ones.

3. Establishing correct oral resting postures for speaking, chewing, and swallowing: Proper resting postures play a crucial role in maintaining optimal oral function. Tongue-thrust speech therapy aims to establish correct resting positions for the tongue, jaw, and lips, which are essential for effective speech production, chewing, and swallowing.

4. Habituating a jaw closed, tip-up tongue, and closed lips rest posture: Tongue-thrust therapy seeks to habituate the habit of positioning the jaw in a closed position, ensuring that the tongue rests against the roof of the mouth, and the lips remain closed at rest. These positions promote proper alignment and function of the oral structures.

5. Achieving optimal respiration through mouth-closed, nose breathing postures: Proper breathing patterns are important for overall oral health and speech production. Tongue-thrust speech therapy aims to facilitate mouth-closed, nose breathing postures to optimize respiration and support the correct functioning of the oral structures.

6. Correcting the reverse-swallow pattern: Some individuals have a reverse-swallow pattern, where the tongue pushes forward against the front teeth during swallowing instead of upward and backward. Tongue-thrust therapy focuses on correcting this pattern to ensure proper swallowing function.

7. Stabilizing functional movement zones for correct jaw and tongue movements: Tongue-thrust therapy aims to establish stable and coordinated movement patterns for the jaw and tongue. By achieving this, individuals can consistently produce speech sounds accurately and efficiently.

By addressing these goals, tongue-thrust speech therapy aims to improve oral function, promote proper speech production, and enhance overall oral health.

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