Tongue thrust treatment is a specialized skill set that is most often offered by Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) but also can be provided by dental professionals. As with any service you receive, it pays to do a little research to ensure you have the best provider to meet your needs.
One thing to know is that you may not have a choice between providers depending on your area of service because tongue thrust treatment does require specialized training. Regardless of whether you have 1 or 10 providers to choose from, here are the top 5 questions you always want to ask to ensure you have the best experience possible.
1- Is the provider specialized in Tongue Thrust (TT) in addition to being certified or licensed in their field of practice?
Both SLPs and dental professionals are required to be certified or licensed (depending on the laws where they practice). It is important that you not assume that they are but ask. Foundational training and the code of ethics ensure a baseline competence and compliance but does not ensure competence with tongue thrust.
Both SLP and dental are vast fields with many areas of specialty as well as general practice. As a patient with tongue thrust you are looking for a specialist.
This may be similar to taking your parakeet to a large animal veterinarian. Yes, the veterinarian probably could treat your parakeet because she probably did have some foundational training in medical school about birds. Most likely anatomy and physiology, common diseases, common medications, etc. However, the knowledge and experience would not be the same as choosing a veterinarian that specializes in domestic birds.
The answer you receive from question 1 will lead you naturally into question 2.
2- How long have you been treating tongue thrust?
The answer to this question may take a little more digging and understanding on your part. With most things in life the longer you do something the better you are at it. However, you need to know that tongue thrust has received a lot of controversy and stagnation due to poor outcomes and relapses.
A provider who is still using placement cues, behavior modification or appliances as the foundation of their program is likely taking much longer to remediate the tongue thrust and is less likely to eliminate it completely.
The Stone Tongue Thrust Protocol (STTP) is a revolutionary treatment protocol that when used correctly by a Certified STTP provider eliminates the tongue thrust efficiently. A provider who has taken the time to specialize and certify with the STTP will have a different perspective of tongue thrust and expectation for timeline of elimination.
Ask about that expectation and timeline!
3- What will my treatment program look like and how long can I expect to be in treatment?
An ethical and responsible clinician will not give you an individual specific answer to this question without a complete diagnostic evaluation because many factors play into your program and timeline. However, there are generalities across any program that you could expect to receive as an answer.
A treatment program using the STTP is an average of 7-10 treatment sessions over a 2-3 month time frame. Treatment can be done in combination with or during orthodontic care, articulation therapy or other co-existing factors and those factors may increase length of remediation. You can expect complete elimination of the tongue thrust with no need for “tune ups” or regression.
Once you have completed an evaluation to diagnose your tongue thrust, your provider should be able to give you a detailed plan of treatment specific to your severity and circumstances.
4- What are the core principles in your plan of treatment?
Again, as alluded to in question #2, be wary of providers who are still taking a placement, behavioral or appliance approach to treating tongue thrust. These approaches definitely do “treat” tongue thrust but often they do not eliminate tongue thrust.
One common example of this is the articulation/placement approach where the provider trains the patient where to put the tongue for proper resting or articulation targets and trains it through practice. Many times this will eliminate the tongue thrust for the error sounds resulting in accurate articulation and rapid identification of where the tongue “should be” but rarely is it found there during resting posture and never is the reverse swallow addressed.
Another example is the orthodontic patient who wears an appliance to treat the tongue thrust. Whether a basket to properly place the tongue or spikes to discourage thrusting, both are not effective often resulting in complicating the dysfunctional compensatory behaviors of the tongue. Again, this approach does not address muscle training or the reverse swallow at all.
Neither of these approaches consistently achieve the desired and anatomically correct placement and physiologically correct functions of the tongue. Because it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the tongue thrust which is a weak base of tongue and reverse swallow.
The Stone Tongue Thrust Protocol focuses on education and awareness, paired with oral muscle isolation and training to eliminate the tongue thrust resting posture and train the posterior swallow. Each aspect is critical to the rapid complete elimination of the tongue thrust and is the reason the outcomes are changing the face of tongue thrust.
5- How much time will I be expected to commit to my tongue thrust treatment?
Because the STTP does eliminate tongue thrust through education and awareness, oral muscle exercises and swallow retraining, you can expect an intensive program especially for the first 4-6 weeks.
You will be required to practice 3 times every day although the practice is usually less than 10 minutes. You will be accountable to your provider at each session with rapid progress and advancement. Most sessions are an average of 45 minutes but this may depend upon your particular treatment plan and provider.
As a consumer with tongue thrust who is unknowingly caught in the middle of divided approaches and differing levels of expertise and training, you need to come to this treatment table having done your due diligence to find the best provider to meet your needs.
If you are looking for a qualified provider, you can start here at stonetonguethrustprotocol.com where you can find the registry of certified providers. Clinicians who have completed the specialized training and demonstrated clinical competence to be Certified STTP providers are listed here. We are confident in referring these clinicians to you and committed to being a resource for you as you find a provider to eliminate your tongue thrust.