Thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and chewing on pencils are all bad oral habits that many kids pick up while they are growing up and learning to do the simplest tasks. While it doesn’t look like it, these habits can have a profound and permanent effect on your children’s teeth.
Please keep reading to learn how and why it is important to stop tongue-thrusting-related issues.
Types of Tongue Thrusting
Tongue thrusting can cause many types of misalignment, also known as malocclusions, on a patient’s teeth if left without any treatment or intervention. Usually, the patient’s teeth will shift to form an ‘open bite,’ which, as the name implies, means that the patient’s mouth can’t close fully. Some teeth won’t touch, while others will, leaving a space between their lower and upper teeth. To fix the malocclusion, patients will require orthodontic treatment and orthodontic appliances.
You should try to avoid malocclusions forming at all costs. Misalignment can lead to oral health problems, including tooth decay, cavities, speech impediments, infections, and even permanent tooth loss in very serious cases.
Here are different types of tongue thrusting that patients could develop.
The most common type of tongue thrusting is the anterior thrust. The anterior thrust refers to the patient’s tongue resting low and forward in the mouth. This position can often cause the upper teeth to protrude while pulling the lower teeth. If the tongue pushes the teeth enough, patients will develop an anterior open bite, which means that their front teeth won’t close and will have a permanent space between them.
Unilateral thrust occurs when the patient’s tongue rests and pushes on either side of the mouth. In this condition, your front teeth will meet as they usually do, but the molars on only one side will shift or angle outwards. This shifting can result in an open bit on only one side. Therefore, the name is unilateral thrust.
Bilateral thrust is very similar to unilateral thrust. The tongue rests and pushes against the sides of the mouth every time the patient swallows. The only difference is that, in this case, it happens simultaneously on both sides of the mouth, which can lead to having an opening on either side while the front teeth close as expected.
This type of tongue thrusting is the most difficult type to deal with.
How to Detect Tongue Thrusting
Tongue thrusting is common in many babies and small children, so there is no need to worry if they keep the bad habit for the first few years of their life. However, according to WebMD, they should start growing out of it by the time they turn four years old. If they are still thrusting their tongue against their teeth by this age, they could start developing some orthodontic issues.
If you notice in your children constant mouth breathing, chapped lips, open lips when resting their mouth, or their tongue pressing against their front teeth while speaking, they may be thrusting their tongue, and you should take them for a dentist appointment to see if they’ll need orthodontic treatment.
What Is a Tongue Crib?
A tongue crib is a metal orthodontic appliance designed to stop bad oral habits such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. Tongue cribs work by putting a metal cage or blockage in the palate just before your front teeth to prevent the patient from creating suction with either their tongue or thumb.
Tongue cribs can be either permanent or removable appliances. Your orthodontist will recommend the one that aligns more with your child’s needs. Many times, the type of appliance will depend on the patient’s level of compliance. If your child tends to lose stuff or forgets to put on the metal crib, they aren’t eligible for removable appliances.
Tongue cribs will stop patients’ bad dental habits and prevent them from developing misaligned teeth that could carry on to their set of permanent teeth.
Of course, tongue cribs only stop the patient from doing more damage and don’t fix any issue present. If your orthodontist in Albany considers that the patient suffered permanent damage, they might have to make a treatment plan where they recommend other appliances, like traditional braces, to fix the crooked teeth.
Tongue Thrust Treatment for Teenagers and Adults
While tongue thrusting is most common in children and babies, it is possible to develop it in the later stages of life. Stress, swollen tonsils, severe allergies, and bad habits from childhood can all cause tongue thrusting in adults and teenagers.
Fortunately for everyone, the issue is treatable despite the patient’s age. Aside from using a tongue crib, patients can also undergo orofacial myology treatment to address the situation.
As mentioned, after solving the initial problem, you may have to deal with some consequences of the bad habit. Patients could require swallowing or speech therapy to correct developed impediments.
Prevention and Intervention Are Keys
If you see any potential indicators of tongue thrusting in yourself, your children, or any loved one, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment here at Estes Orthodontics. The sooner you catch and treat the problem, the fewer effects it will have on your health and your daily life.