A tongue thrust occurs when the tongue moves forward in an exaggerated way during swallowing, pushing against or between the front teeth. Orthodontists may refer for tongue thrust therapy, if they have concerns that orthodontic treatment will be reversed or will relapse, due to a tongue thrust swallowing pattern.
Insufficient research in the area has led to a lack of evidence for tongue thrust therapy and a significant amount of criticism about the use of oral myofunctional therapy in general. It is important that evidence base is used to inform therapy and there is a need for quality research in the area of tongue thrust, in particular. Tongue thrust therapy, as carried out in our clinic, is not to work on speech sound production, but to focus on avoiding reversal or relapse of any orthodontic work. Case studies have indicated a long term positive impact (see article below).
Tongue thrust therapy is carried out if dentition is affected, and usually not for any other reason.
Therapy is carried out with children from the age of 8, adolescents and adults.
A mature swallowing pattern usually emerges between ages 6 and 8.
The first step in tongue thrust therapy is to screen the swallow and note any other contributing factors, such as allergies and nasal congestion, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. If the tonsils or adenoids are enlarged, a referral to an Ear Nose and Throat Consultant would be the first port of call.
If a client wishes to continue with therapy, a 10-week programme is used, with sessions on a fortnightly basis, for 30 mins each. The client will practice the exercises at home three times a day. The exercises are focused on tongue placement and swallowing, with an increase in complexity with each week.
Useful website: https://www.iaom.com/faq/
Interesting article: Gommerman, S. L., & Hodge, M. M. (1995). Effects of oral myofunctional therapy on swallowing and sibilant production. International Journal of Orofacial Myology, 21(1), 9-22.