Orthodontics can be very complex. When Orthodontists are evaluating a patient, they must look beyond crooked teeth. The tongue is a critical factor along with others that need to be taken into consideration.

The tongue should naturally rest in the roof of the mouth to provide internal stability for the upper jaw. When someone has a tongue thrust or a mouth breathing problem, the tongue will rest in the floor of the mouth which weakens or takes away the internal support system.

When the tongue is low it is constantly resting against the front teeth and every time we swallow, it pushes forward. These two factors can cause the teeth to move.

When we lose our baby teeth and the adult teeth start to erupt, the position of the tongue can cause the adult teeth to grow in crooked. When a child has a tongue thrust, the adult teeth tend to grow in more widely spaced and angled towards the lips. This is what dentists refer to as an “open bite.” An open bite is where the top and bottom teeth do not overlap.

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Anterior Open Bite

Braces at a Young Age

Once a child is ready to start orthodontic treatment, any previous dental problems that are caused by a tongue thrust will be a concern both during and after treatment. This is because the muscular issues have not been addressed.

A tongue thrust and mouth breathing will:

  • Generally make treatment more challenging because spaces are harder to close and teeth are difficult to align.
  • Prolong the duration of orthodontic treatment.
  • Cause orthodontic relapse in which treatment may be needed multiple times.

Myofunctional therapy can address all issues caused by a tongue thrust and mouth breathing which will make orthodontic treatment less challenging.

The Right Time to Start Myofunctional Therapy

As we all have seen, children’s faces, jaws and teeth grow incredibly quick. This means that myofunctional therapy is most effective if it is done during this growth phase rather than later in life.

It is ideal to start myofunctional therapy prior to orthodontic treatment. However, myofunctional therapy can significantly improve results at any time during treatment.

Even after orthodontic treatment is complete and the teeth have started to shift, it is still not to late to start myofunctional therapy. Many people seek orthodontic treatment a second or third time, but by this time around they have figured out that they need to first fix their tongue issue.

Orthodontists and Appliances

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Orthodontic Tongue Rake

Orthodontists are very aware that the tongue can be problematic when straightening teeth. They have created an array of appliances that help “corral” the tongue but the swallowing pattern and the associated tongue thrust may not be permanently changed.

What can I do to help? I teach both children and adults exercises that retrain the orofacial muscles so that they are able to gain control over their tongue. This eliminates tongue thrust habits.