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Tongue Thrust

Tongue thrust is exhibited when a child demonstrates a reverse swallow pattern of the tongue moving forward through the teeth during swallowing foods, liquids and speech production. A tongue thrust affects speech production and orthodonture/malformed jaw and usually occurs concurrently with an open-mouth posture. Children often will have a history of allergies, enlarged tonsil/adenoids and thumb sucking. A tongue thrust is usually diagnosed by an orthodontist or during a speech evaluation and/or therapy.

Warning signs

  • Open-mouth posture
  • Tongue pushing through the teeth during speech (especially on the “s” and “z” sounds)
  • Tongue rests on the bottom lip
  • Tightening of the face and lip muscles during swallowing


  • Elimination of oral habits, such as thumb sucking and prolonged bottle or pacifier use beyond 12 months
  • Management of allergies with medication
  • Consultation with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist regarding structural problems (such as enlarged adenoids) contributing to tongue thrust


  • Raise child’s awareness of their mouth posture (encourage them to keep their lips closed)
  • Encourage chewing with the mouth closed
  • Encourage child to place tongue behind upper teeth when at rest