How your tongue affects your orthodontic treatment
Updated: Jan 26
For children and adults who struggle with an improper tongue posture and tongue thrusting , stopping the pattern is not always easy. This is because all of the muscles of the face and mouth have been programmed over the course of many years. The body does not know how to use the tongue and facial muscles correctly, and so it needs help. There also may be physical factors such as fascial restrictions or a tongue tie influencing function. If the causes are not addressed and the muscles are not re-trained, your orthodontic treatment and final result may be compromised.
Besides affecting the success of your braces, improper tongue rest posture and tongue thrust can also have a lasting negative impact on a person’s general health, speech, dental health, swallowing, breathing, facial growth and development.
Braces Move Teeth
Braces work by applying a light, constant pressure to the teeth and moving them slowly over a period of time. The pressure temporarily mobile. Eventually, the bone fills in around each of the teeth, solidifying them into their new positions.
Muscles Move Teeth Too!
The muscles of our mouth and face are nature’s living orthodontic equalizers. They have a great influence on the position of our teeth. Teeth can be shifted by muscular influence from the jaws, lips, tongue, and cheeks.
Ideally, a balance of forces exists between the lips and cheeks on the outside of the teeth, and the tongue, resting up on the palate (roof of the mouth) on the inside. Any imbalances in this positioning affect the growth, comfort, and position of the teeth and jaw. One of the most significant types of muscular imbalance to affect the oral and facial structures is where your tongue rests. When the tongue rests low in the mouth a forward tongue swallowing pattern or “tongue thrust” can develop.
Tongue Thrust / Tongue rest posture
A tongue thrust occurs when the muscles for swallowing have learned to work together the wrong way. The muscles of the tongue can be very strong. When the tongue constantly rests against the teeth or low in the mouth and pushes forward or sideways during a swallow, it causes the teeth to move.
If you have braces, a poor tongue rest posture and a tongue thrust can be a problem because:
It can slow down your orthodontic treatment, keeping your braces on for a longer period of time.
It can make your teeth move again, after your braces are taken off.
It can make moving your teeth and closing spaces much more difficult for your orthodontist.
When the muscles of your mouth and face are not in balance, solving orthodontic problems is much more challenging.
Do I have poor oral rest posture or a tongue thrust?
Below are three of the most common signs to recognize if you or your child has a tongue thrust or low tongue rest posture :
Mouth breathing is the most common sign. The mouth is open at rest, and the tongue is often low, forward or between the teeth.
Speech Concerns, especially lisping, can be a sign of a tongue thrust. Another indicator is difficulty pronouncing “T, D, N,L and R” sounds. General problems with articulation, rate of speech, voice quality and clarity may also be present.
Messy eating open mouth chewing , facial grimace when swallowing
Sucking habits, such as thumb finger or pacifier past or present
What Can Be Done to Fix a Tongue Thrust?
Orthodontists have struggled over the years, fighting the strength of the tongue while trying to provide the best orthodontic treatment. Many appliances have been invented to “tame” the tongue, and an appliance is one option available to help you with tongue thrust.
Myofunctional Therapy is Another Option
Myofunctional Therapy is another method used for improving the rest posture of the tongue and eliminating a tongue thrust. It is a holistic exercise-based treatment that teaches patients how to use their tongue and facial muscles the way they were designed. Its important to know your options when correcting poor oral rest posture and a tongue thrust, an appliance is not enough.
Oral Rest Posture and Braces
A Myofunctional Therapist (MFT) can be instrumental in helping a patient learn to re- train the resting posture of the tongue and lips and re-train a normal swallowing pattern. This will be the best " retainer" after braces and may even prevent the need for extensive orthodontics.
Karyn Kasvin is a dental hygienist who specializes in myofunctional therapy, helping patients with their oral rest posture and tongue thrusting habits and other myofunctional concerns such as mouth breathing. With over 30 years of experience in the dental profession, she understands how the health of the mouth directly relates to the overall health of the body.
With this functional, holistic approach, she provides quality care, education, and enjoyable therapy to all of her patients. Creating a therapeutic partnership and giving people tools to help themselves.