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The Effect Of Tongue Thrusting On Dental Development

Tongue thrusting is a relatively common--and potentially quite damaging--behavior in children. As its name would imply, it involves the thrusting out of the tongue from between the top and bottom teeth while eating, speaking, and even resting. Unfortunately, many parents fail to appreciate the perils of tongue thrusting, which can lead to the need for extensive dental or orthodontic interventions down the line. If you would like to learn more about the potential ramifications of this habit, keep reading. Here you will learn about the causes and effects of this behavioral pattern.


Tongue thrusting is a relatively normal and harmless pattern up to a certain age. Most children naturally outgrow the behavior by the age of four or five years. Yet for reasons not fully understood, certain children persist in tongue thrusting. The longer this pattern is allowed to continue, the more likely it is to lead to serious complications.

There are numerous hypotheses about why tongue thrusting persists in certain cases, and clearly there is not one explanation governing every instance of the phenomenon. Rather a variety of factors are likely involved. Such factors are thought to include:

  • an enlarged or oversized tongue (a condition known as macroglossia)
  • persistent thumb sucking
  • the condition known as tongue tie
  • inherited genetic factors

In addition, it has been postulated that tongue thrusting may be exacerbated in children who suffer from chronic allergies or other issues that include pronounced nasal congestion. In order to breath more easily, those with such issues tend to carry their tongue lower in the mouth. This position increases the risk that the child will then engage in tongue thrusting.


Tongue thrusting is especially problematic in that it has a negative effect on the alignment of the teeth. This is the result of the pressure which the tongue exerts on the teeth during swallowing. When the tongue is held between the teeth, this pressure is greatly amplified, leading to anterior teeth that appear bent outward from the front of the mouth.

Tongue thrusting can also cause speech disorders such as lisping and difficulty pronouncing certain consonants. This has to do with the way that air is forced around the tongue when speaking. In an individual whose tongue positioning is correct, air will tend to move forward from the center of the mouth--in other words, above the tongue. Yet because those who suffer from tongue thrusting tend to hold their tongue at a lower position, air is forced out of the mouth around the edges of the tongue, which makes it much more difficult to enunciate clearly.

To learn more about the effects that tongue thrusting can have on your child's teeth, contact a dental office like Pine Lake Dental Group.