I am continually amazed that in 2016 we still have these perpetuated myths about tongue thrust, whether it exists, what to do about it and whether it matters. I guess I’m amazed because I’ve been effectively treating and eliminating tongue thrust for almost 15 years so when I hear these reports from clients, friends, or family I just shake my head in disbelief! Once I get done shaking my head, I get busy educating because that’s what I do!
Here’s the situation I’m going to start with because it just happened yesterday! Completing an evaluation with a 15 year old young man who has had speech therapy not once but twice in the past 10 years because of concerns with tongue thrust by the PARENTS because of mouth breathing and jumbled dentition. He of course sees an orthodontist who uses appliances not only to spread his palate but also hinge his jaw to aid with dental alignment. The orthodontist agrees there is an issue with tongue thrust and refers to a speech therapist that is close by his office. Unfortunately, this therapist is not trained in the elimination of tongue thrust so she does an articulation approach (understand that this child had no articulation errors) and no one sees any results or understands what is even to be expected.
Fast forward 5 years or so and the speech therapy is long gone, the braces are off and low and behold the teeth are going right back where they started! Maddening! Kudos to the PARENTS who know this isn’t ok. Their child has had sinus surgeries and massive orthodontia and 10 years later is still breathing through his mouth and thrusting. He is now old enough that he doesn’t want his teeth to go back to an open bite (which it already has) and his parents are concerned that the open mouth posture is indicative of something else. Well yes it is! It’s tongue thrust and if you understand why his palate needed to be spread and his jaw needed hydraulics, you understand that it all has to do with the oral muscles we use to swallow. If you have a reverse swallow the front of the tongue is doing all of the work and not distributing the tongue where it should be as you mature from an infant to a toddler to a child to an adolescent and finally an adult. Yes, these mouths are changing for many years and if the muscles are not working properly you have all sorts of maladies like jumbled dentition, misalignment of the jaw, TMJ, articulation disorders, and now research is pointing to progressive swallowing problems as we age.
It’s kind of like the toddlers who walk on their tip toes and as they get older they receive physical therapy to release the tight tendons and retrain their gait so that it doesn’t throw off their muscles, spine and posture as they grow. Unfortunately, most people don’t “see” the effects of the reverse swallow and certainly don’t equate it to a tongue thrust so nothing gets done until the structures are set and even then they treat the symptoms with appliances and surgeries rather than fixing the underlying muscle and swallowing issues that are causing it all to begin with.
I have decided that these stories can be used to debunk the myths and bring both professionals and consumers into the reality that tongue thrust most definitely does exist, tongue thrust therapy can be done by a variety of professionals but the important thing is that they have specialized practical training in the elimination of tongue thrust as a swallowing disorder not just a tongue placement issue. I treat very few clients these days as I have changed my focus to educating the professionals with effective tongue thrust identification and elimination using the Stone Tongue Thrust Protocol. Because of this I feel confident that the word is spreading and people are getting it… Then I have experiences like the one I share from YESTERDAY. Oh boy! We still have a lot of work to do! Thank goodness for parents who are persistent and trust their gut.