Tongue thrusting is a common oral habit most people don’t even realize they have. Many people thrust their tongues to the roof of their mouth, back into the mouth, or front out of the mouth while they multitask.
However, tongue thrusting can lead to serious oral health issues like tongue burns, bitten tongues, dry mouth, and tooth and gum erosion.
While you may not be able to stop all multitasking, you can stop your tongue from moving with this easy process. You will only need two things: your hands and concentration.
The goal of this article is to help you recognize if you have a tongue thrust habit and how to stop it. Once you have achieved this, you will be more aware and focused on what you are doing and saying which will reduce multitasking.
Understand why you tongue thrust
Tongue thrusting is linked to anxiety. When you feel nervous or fear for your safety, your body goes into a state of alert.
This state of alert causes changes in your body. Blood flow is redistributed to your muscles and away from your skin, sweat glands are activated, and your heart rate speeds up.
These changes are designed to help you deal with a threatening situation. If you were in danger, these changes would help you fight or flee the threat.
But these changes can have an effect on your speech. When you’re nervous, you may feel like you can’t get enough air into your lungs. You may also feel like you can’t quite get the right words out, because you’re struggling to breathe properly. This can lead to vocal fold tightness and injury.
Practice keeping your lips closed
If you’re a mouth-mover, you probably open your mouth when you speak. That’s why it’s important to practice keeping your lips closed.
When you speak, bring your lips close to each other, then pull them tight so there’s only the slightest gap between them. Keep your lips in this position as you talk.
It may feel strange at first, but keep at it. The more you do this, the more natural it will feel and the more automatic it will be.
This helps reduce tongue thrusting because you’re constantly aware of your lips being closed. You’ll also develop the habit of keeping your tongue in place.
If you notice that you’re tongue thrusting even while your lips are closed, then there may be a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.
Focus on keeping your teeth apart
If you can’t seem to keep your tongue down, try focusing on keeping your teeth apart.
This means not only gripping the floor with your toes, but also keeping your lips and teeth separated as you breathe out.
It may feel awkward at first, but keep working at it and re-establish the habit of separating your lips and the floor while breathing out.
This will help prevent excessive inhalation due to a tight chest and limited breathing capacity. It will also help improve respiratory synchronization by allowing more air to enter the lungs.
Avoid habits that cause tongue thrusting
While tongue thrusting is a normal part of speech, there are situations where it is not appropriate. When talking to strangers, in formal settings, and when reading out loud, people do not like feeling someone’s tongue in their mouth.
For example, imagine trying to flirt while saying ‘I want you in my mouth’ instead of ‘I want you’. It just does not sound sexy!
Unfortunately, there are many habits that cause tongue thrusting. Because it is a subconscious action, people that tongue thrust do not always realize they do it.
However, once you learn how to recognize the sensation of thrusting your tongue into your mouth, you can stop doing it. Then you will be able to speak more clearly and feel more comfortable when talking.
Exercise your mouth and jaw
If you’re tongue thrusting is caused by a tight jaw, then working on your jaw exercise can help. You can do this by holding your mouth open for a few seconds at a time several times a day.
As you get better, you can increase the time you hold your mouth open and also add in exercises that require more strength in your jaw.
This includes things like biting into solid food, chewing gum, and talking. All of these things require some effort on your part to do them, which will help with the underlying issues that cause tongue thrusting.
If these don’t work, then professional therapy may be necessary to help release the tight muscles in your jaw. Physical or occupational therapy may be options for you to seek out help with this.
Use a mouth guard
If tongue thrusting is a problem for you, try using a mouth guard. These are commonly used by athletes who play sports like football and basketball to protect their teeth.
You can purchase one at your local drugstore or online. There are many brands so do some research to find one that has good reviews and is suited for you.
A mouth guard can help prevent injury because it covers the front teeth and gum line, where most injuries occur during sport. Since this issue is related to sport, a mouth guard designed for sports may be the best option.
If you are experiencing pain or find that you bruise easily on the inside of your mouth, then trying a mouth guard may help reduce that symptoms.
For those who experience tongue thrusting but do not experience any injuries as a result, there is no need to invest in a mouth guard. Only do this if you need the protection for something and it will benefit you.
Consult with your dentist
Although tongue thrusting is not considered a serious problem, it can lead to other issues. If left untreated, it can cause dental problems like gingivitis and tooth decay.
If you have difficulty controlling your tongue thrust, contact your dentist for advice. They will be able to show you ways to reduce or eliminate the habit.
The best way to stop tongue thrusting is to build new habits. The best way to do this is with the help of a professional. Your dentist or another member of the dental staff may offer treatment strategies to help you stop tongue thrusting.
They may have you use a special brush or toothpaste that has a distinct taste that reminds you to keep your tongue still when brushing your teeth. They may have you practice gentle tooth brushing each day for a set amount of time to develop a new habit.
Get help from a therapist
If you’re experiencing discomfort or pain as a result of tongue thrusting, talk to your dentist or a speech-language pathologist about it.
They can assess the problem and determine if therapy is a good option for you. In therapy, you’ll work with a speech-language pathologist on improving your mouth and tongue position for speech sounds affected by tongue thrusting.
You’ll also work on improving your jaw function, balance, and strength. This will help you reduce the pressure on your teeth while speaking.
You can also work on changing behaviors that contribute to tongue thrusting. For example, you may work with a therapist to teach you how to keep your mouth closed while speaking.
This will help prevent the upward movement of the lower jaw during speech, which prevents the lower teeth from being exposed.