Tongue Thrust Disorder

My child sticks out his tongue when he swallows. Why?

Your child may have a condition known as tongue thrust. Tongue thrust is the common name for a disorder in which a person pushes his tongue against or between his teeth during a swallow. Tongue thrust can affect children, adolescents, and adults.

What causes tongue thrust?

Some of the most common causes of tongue thrust include infant feeding difficulties, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, sucking on thumbs or fingers, mouth breathing or other genetic factors, such as abnormal dentition.

How can I tell the difference between a normal swallow and an incorrect swallow?

A normal swallow includes precise movements of the tongue, teeth and facial muscles. In a normal swallow, the tongue tip is raised to a spot behind the front teeth. The rest of the tongue is pushed up against the roof of the mouth, trapping food and liquids. The back teeth are together, and the swallow is accomplished without tensing of the facial muscles.

Any deviation from this is an incorrect swallow.

What clinical procedures are done to diagnose tongue thrust?

A trained speech-language pathologist (SLP) examines the child’s oral structures and tongue positioning during rest, swallowing and speech. The SLP also performs a case history to see if any associated oral behaviors are present.

How is tongue thrust treated?

Therapy for tongue thrust is divided up into 12 lessons. The first five lessons are used to train the different muscles of the swallow to obtain the correct resting pattern and placement. Lessons six and seven teach the child how the correct swallow is performed. The last four lessons teach the child how to make the normal swallow a habit.

How long does treatment last?

The first eight lessons take place once per week for 30 minutes. The last four lessons take place every two weeks. After the 12 lessons are completed, the child should be seen every 3-6 months for two years. At the end of the treatment, if the child is still producing articulation errors, additional speech sessions may be recommended.