Tongue thrust refers to the orthodontic bad habit of pressing your tongue too far forward to the point that it pushes against the teeth. This habit is far more common among infants and children than it is the adolescents and adults that are usually clear aligner candidates, with a study published in DDD estimating that nearly 3/4ths of children from grades 1-3 are guilty of it.
So why would this habit be of concern while you’re wearing removable clear aligners? For one, it obviously increases the friction bearing down on your aligners. Furthermore, it’s also been correlated with certain types of malocclusion, such as overbite and overjet.
Though children are vulnerable to having their developing bite harmed by tongue thrust, as they are by thumb sucking and pacifier overuse, the adult mouth isn’t entirely immune to malformations. If it was, we obviously wouldn’t have a sizable body of our clientele coming in!
So, to effectively reign this habit in, it’s recommended that patients who partake in tongue thrusting:
- Undergo myofunctional therapy
- Complete tongue exercises
- Use a tongue crib appliance, if necessary
A tongue crib is a metal appliance that fits to the top of your mouth. This device creates a “gate” that prevents the tongue from pressing against the roof and is designed to discourage movement.
An experienced orthodontist can effectively determine whether or not you would need to wear one before clear aligner treatment, and will want to complete it before so they aren’t conflicting.