When we swallow our tongue should produce an ‘up and back’ action to propel our food/drink down the throat. This is called a ‘mature swallow pattern’. Occasionally a tongue may poke forward or even sideways when swallowing, and this is known as an ‘immature swallow pattern’. It is often referred to as a ‘reverse swallow’ or a ‘tongue thrust’.
Teeth can move out of place when the tongue pokes forward or sideways to swallow. A tongue thrust swallow can even slow teeth from erupting due to constant pressure on the gums.
A tongue that does not swallow correctly can lead to:
- Aerophagia (swallowing air), gastric discomfort, regular burping (especially after meals)
- Choking, coughing
- Audible swallowing
- A feeling of blocked ears or crackling noises in the ears
- Ear infections (swallowing helps clear the Eustachian tubes)
- Activation of lips, cheeks and chin muscles to help swallow solids/liquid
(pics of ant & post open bite, crowding)
A tongue that pokes forward between the front teeth or sideways between the back teeth during swallowing opens the bite and can affect biting or chewing, contribute to speech/sound issues (Eg lisping) and often requires orthodontic management to restore the ideal dental aesthetics and function.
Chewing on one side of the mouth can result in muscular imbalances, facial asymmetry and TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain. Inadequate chewing can also contribute to digestive issues.