A tongue thrust can result in an inefficient swallowing pattern or affect the position of a person’s teeth. A tongue thrust may be present at birth but not diagnosed until seven or eight years of age. Infants and toddlers with tongue thrust can have breast-feeding problems, colic, refuse foods that are hard to chew and swallow, and have trouble drinking from a straw. Young children can also have a lisp or unclear speech.
Changes in a child’s bite are often noticed by age 8. Dentists and orthodontists may identify the need for an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist to determine if a tongue thrust is present. An evaluation is important if braces are being considered. If the tongue thrust is not treated, the teeth will quickly return to the position they had before the braces.
Tongue thrust treatment is most effective for individuals who are 10 and older. In younger children, the speech language pathologist may make suggestions to help minimize its effect until treatment is appropriate.