Why can I see my child’s tongue? Tongue Thrust Signs and Treatment

Can you see your child’s tongue more often than average? This may be a sign of an abnormal swallow with bigger implications than you’d expect. It may be hard to detect, but certain signs and symptoms may alert you to the problem. If you ever notice your child does a lot of mouth breathing, eats messier than average, or the tongue is visible between the teeth when the mouth is at rest, or when your child is talking or eating, your child may have a bad habit called “tongue thrust.”

What is tongue thrust?

Tongue thrust happens when a person’s tongue pushes too far forward when swallowing. It may sound harmless, but when you consider that a person can average just under 2000 swallows a day, the teeth and jaw can end up taking on an excessive impact. In fact, it can be enough impact that the jaw begins to change shape.

Signs of tongue thrust.

The most obvious sign of tongue thrust, if you know what you are looking for, is an open bite.


This means the upper and lower teeth do not meet in front when your child bites together. When this happens, you may notice a few things:

  • Mouth breathing: Your child breathes through the mouth instead of the nose.
  • Visible tongue: Because of the space between the upper and lower teeth, the child’s tongue can be seen more than typical when the child talks, eats, swallows, or even at when the mouth is at rest.
  • Lips don’t close completely: If the teeth have shifted enough in an open bite, it can change the structure of the jaw enough that the lips don’t close.

And the problem is more than just a bad bite and swallow, though. These symptoms could contribute to snoring, sleep apnea, and even a TMJ disorder (where the jaw is not properly aligned). Any of these problems cause daytime tiredness, daytime fatigue, and problems concentrating in school. The issues can cause long term health issues when left untreated. However, the good news is, tongue thrust can be corrected.

What can be done about it?

If your child has an open bite and tongue thrust, orthodontic care could be an easy step to fix the problem. If it’s diagnosed and determined that orthodontic work can help, your child’s care starts with a functional appliance. This device, similar to a retainer, can do a double whammy in treatment—eliminate the tongue thrust habit and take the first step in fixing the shape of their jaw and correcting the open bite.

A functional appliance is a tiny device designed like a mouth retainer, with micro-screws, to make the appliance able to activate and stimulate the change in bone. It can be a tool to prevent the tongue from thrusting forward too far, and in the process it helps the jaw grow to its full potential, correcting the bad bite.

What’s the first step I can take?

The best first step is diagnosis, and this is easy! Schedule a free consultation and let Dr. Sep and Dr. Rondeau take a look to see if your child has an open bite and a problem with tongue thrust. In a half-hour visit, we can gather information and conduct a preliminary examination to see if we can help correct your child’s open bite and tongue thrust. At this appointment we can recommend next steps to be on the way to treatment!

Schedule your free consultation today.

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