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Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry Official publication of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry
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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 80-83

Is tongue thrust that develops during orthodontic treatment an unrecognized potential road block?

1 Deptt. of Oral Health Sciences, Oral Health Sciences Center, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh - 160 012, India
2 Oral Health Sciences Center, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh - 160 012, India

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Suri
Oral Health Sciences Center, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh - 160 012
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-4388.26021

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The role of tongue thrust has often been suspected, long debated and largely dispelled as a primary etiological factor of malocclusion. However, tongue thrust may contribute to poor occlusal intercuspation both during and after treatment. A tongue thrust may also develop during orthodontic mechanotherapy as a result of the transient creation of intra and interarch spaces and this little recognized phenomenon was found to occur in many randomly followed cases. In many instances, this seemingly adaptive and secondary response of the tongue posture and function may persist and thereafter impede the resolution of intra and interarch problems.

Keywords: Tongue thrust, orthodontic treatment, anchorage loss

How to cite this article:
Chawla H S, Suri S, Utreja A. Is tongue thrust that develops during orthodontic treatment an unrecognized potential road block?. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent 2006;24:80-3

How to cite this URL:
Chawla H S, Suri S, Utreja A. Is tongue thrust that develops during orthodontic treatment an unrecognized potential road block?. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent [serial online] 2006 [cited 2022 Jul 7];24:80-3. Available from: https://www.jisppd.com/text.asp?2006/24/2/80/26021

  Introduction Top

Comprehensive orthodontic treatment involves sequenced delivery of tooth moving forces and application of sound biomechanical principles, which when successful, culminate in transforming the malocclusion state to optimal occlusion and improved esthetics, function and stability. Refinements in present day appliances and techniques have significantly improved the standards of treatment with minimal complications and lead to achieving treatment goals in an expeditious manner. The preadjusted appliance as it is used today is an example of such progress. However, during treatment with fixed appliances and especially so with the preadjusted appliance, anchorage preservation is very important to avoid treatment compromises and even failures. In cases where anchorage preservation is critical, any additional factor that tends to tax the anchorage, howsoever small its individual influence, may cumulatively impact the treatment outcome and thus its role becomes important. Tongue thrust which develops during orthodontic treatment is one such a factor that often gets overlooked during orthodontic mechanotherapy. We observed that tongue thrust often develops during routine comprehensive orthodontic treatment subsequent to bite opening and after the creation of extraction spaces. This observation was seen in many cases that were followed prospectively in treatment.

Abnormal tongue function and posture have been long debated as a cause of malocclusion. Lefoulon,[1] in 1839, appreciated that among the causes of irregularities of teeth were "sounds of speech in which the tongue strikes against the upper anterior teeth, pushing them forward." Desirabode's article published in 1843,[2] is the first known reference to the fact that the lips on the outside and the tongue on the inside of the mouth constitute a balance of forces that retain the teeth in their position. In 1859, Bridgeman[3] described irregularities of the teeth due to external muscle forces (of the lips and cheeks), internal muscle forces (of the tongue) and occlusal forces. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Angle[4] had recognized the problems of the muscular environment of the dental arches and had noted: "We are just beginning to realize how common and varied are the vicious habits of the lips and tongue, how powerful and persistent they are to overcome." Rogers[5] advocated myofunctional for harnessing muscle forces to treat malocclusions. Tweed[6] acknowledged that abnormal muscle function was a major factor in relapse. Although he did not know how much muscle function could be altered through orthodontic procedures, nevertheless, he advocated that treatment should try to overcome the perverted muscle and tongue habits. To answer the specific question of how significant a role does tongue thrust that develops during orthodontic treatment have in taxing the anchorage, there are no data available in the literature.

A simple definition of tongue thrust might be stated as follows: 'The forward movement of the tongue tip between the teeth to meet the lower lip, in deglutition and in sounds of speech so that the tongue becomes interdental.[7]' This does not include consideration of forward tongue posture, which has a more important role. Tulley[7] proposed a working clinical classification of tongue thrust. According to him, the main types are: tongue thrusting as a habit; tongue thrusting which is possibly endogenous or innate; tongue thrust as an adaptive behavior; and pathologic and grossly abnormal tongue problems. Of these, tongue thrust habit and tongue thrust as an adaptive behavior are amenable to correction with orthodontic treatment or natural growth placing the labial segments in good relationship.

It is widely held that as patients who have a tongue thrust before treatment grow, their airway size increases and the tongue can assume a more posterior position. Also, as the dental environment that may have supported the habit is improved with orthodontic treatment, the tongue and lip musculature adapt to the improved environment and normal function begins to occur. As a result, about 80% of tongue-thrust habits usually correct themselves before the finishing stage of orthodontic treatment.[8] However, patients with severe habits should be referred for myofunctional therapy early in treatment or even before treatment.[8]

In Tulley's cross sectional study of 1,500 12 year old schoolchildren selected as a true random sample,[7] only twelve children had a complex problem of tongue behavior and children of this group had an adverse skeletal pattern with high maxillary-mandibular plane angles. Another twelve children were seen to have a tongue thrust in speech, but all had ideal occlusion. Forward tongue posture may be sufficient to prevent vertical eruption of the anterior teeth and thus result in an anterior open-bite malocclusion. Numerous investigators have studied the pressures exerted by the tongue.[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20] The importance of tongue pressures during function and rest is significant especially with the knowledge that very low forces are sufficient to move teeth if applied over a sufficient period of time.[21] Studies of tongue and lip pressure have suggested that the pressure created at rest may have an influence on dental arch form and tooth position.[18],[22],[23] In a limited number of cases with poor facial pattern associated with forward tongue posture at rest, an anterior openbite may not be permanently reduced, whatever the method of treatment. This clinical type is very unfavorable for treatment, but fortunately occurs in only about 0.6% of the population.[7]

There is central coordination of the timing of jaw, lip and tongue muscles during chewing.[24],[25] Electromyographic studies of tongue function have shown that genioglossus muscle activity ceases when teeth are in intercuspation, with a simultaneous peak in activity of the auricular temporalis muscle and gradually increases during jaw opening to peak immediately before maximum opening of jaw position.[25],[26] Thus, lack of proper intercuspation during the initial parts of mechanotherapy can lead to the development of tongue thrust.

Interceptive attempts to contain tongue thrust have conventionally involved suggestions to the patient, myofunctional exercises and a gamut of appliances such as cribs, rakes, overlay bite plates, interocclusal elastics, maxillary expanders and loose fitting training appliances. Myofunctional therapy is indicated in severe situations as soon as the child is able to understand the problem and cooperate with the therapist. Often the orthodontist can instruct the child in the proper way of swallowing and this knowledge, coupled with changes in the relationships of teeth during orthodontic treatment, can correct the problem. Increased patient awareness of occlusion also aids in controlling tongue thrust in swallowing and speaking.[27]

  Development of tongue thrust during orthodontic treatment Top

While the role of tongue thrust as a major cause of malocclusion per se has largely been dispelled, yet, the fact that tongue thrust and tongue posture may impede tooth eruption sufficiently to cause an anterior open bite and may have an influence on dental arch form and tooth position indicates that in the event of its development during treatment, tongue thrust may obstruct desirable tooth movements during orthodontic treatment and may contribute to loss of anchorage. The leveling and aligning phase of fixed mechanotherapy is commonly followed by bite opening as the next phase of tooth movement. Leveling can sometimes lead to a transient increase in overjet when the bite may be over closed pretreatment due to severely retroclined upper anterior teeth. In many situations, as a result of the bite-opening or transient increase in overjet during the early phases of treatment, tongue thrust develops as a secondary feature, though it was not present pretreatment [Figure - 1]. It may also begin when treatment requires creation of temporary open spaces or leads to interferences with intercuspation [Figure - 2]. Such thrusting may be transitory or permanent.[28] It is noteworthy that tongue thrust developed in many of the patients. Randomly followed prospectively, who did not have a tongue thrust before treatment. This has led us to start prospectively examining patients to evaluate the development of tongue thrust during routine orthodontic treatment involving a larger number of patients of various facial types and malocclusions, its management and the effects thereof.

Thus, even though it may not be a cause of the original presenting malocclusion, a tongue thrust, which develops mid-treatment in this fashion may slow down the treatment and may start to tell on the anchorage. In the majority of cases, it may go unnoticed and anchor loss may continue unchecked. The problem is certainly an added difficulty in managing high mandibular plane angle cases. Additionally, tongue thrust and open bite problems are more common and more difficult to treat in high mandibular plane angle cases. An inadvertent increase in the vertical of a high mandibular plane angle case can cause the mandible to rotate open dramatically. This rotation and the tongue thrust may couple to form a vicious cycle, which is of great disadvantage to the high angle patient.

  Management Top

Pre-empting the situation may be the best way to prevent the problem. In high angle Class II patients, where bite opening and retraction may be goals of the treatment plan, treatment mechanics should be paced in such a way that tongue thrust is discouraged and in those cases where it is evident (to vigilant inspection), mechanics should be modified and myofunctional exercises instituted to prevent deleterious effects such as anchor loss. The methods applied may include any or all of the following: slow bite opening; avoiding stepwise retraction of the mandibular anterior teeth first while leaving the maxillary anteriors proclined and/or protruded to be corrected later (which will be conducive to developing an overjet); intervening with the institution of popping myotherapeutic tongue exercises and training in correct swallowing techniques in the early stages of treatment, if tongue thrust is seen to develop. We have found that a method of show (the presence of tongue thrust), tell (about the problem and potential benefits of the exercise) and do (demonstration of correct swallowing and making the patient practice the same, seated in the dental chair and under supervision) with a fortnightly scheduled reinforcement, is very helpful to curb the habit in most patients.

  References Top

1.Lefoulon PJ. Orthopιdie dentaire. Gaz d H τp: 1839. p. 111.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Desirabode M. Complete elements of the science and art of the dentist. Am Lib Dent Sci 1843.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Bridgeman M. Lateral pressure. Tr Odont Soc: London; 1859. p. 160.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Angle EH. Malocclusion of the teeth. 7th ed. SS White Dental Mfg Co: Philadelphia; 1907.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Rogers AP. Evolution, development and application of myofunctional therapy in orthodontics. Am J Orthod Oral Surg 1939;25:1.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Kaplan H. The logic of modern retention procedures. Am J Orthod Dentofac Orthop 1988;93:325-40.  Back to cited text no. 6  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
7.Tulley WJ. A clinical appraisal of tongue-thrusting. Am J Orthod 1969;55:640-50.  Back to cited text no. 7  [PUBMED]  
8.Mclaughlin RP, Bennet JC. Finishing and detailing with a preadjusted appliance system. J Clin Orthod 1991;25:251-64.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Winders RV. Forces exerted on the dentition by the perioral and lingual musculature during swallowing. Angle Orthod 1958;28:226-35.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Winders RV. Recent findings in myometric research. Angle Orthod 1962;32:38-43.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Gould MS, Picton DC. An evaluation of a method of measuring forces exerted by the tongue on the teeth. Br Dent J 1963;114:175-80.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Kydd WL, Akamine JS, Mendel RA, Kraus BS. Tongue and lip forces exerted during deglutition in subjects with and without an anterior openbite. J Dent Res 1963;42:858-66.  Back to cited text no. 12  [PUBMED]  
13.Proffit WR, Kydd WL, Wilske GH, Taylor DT. Intraoral pressures in a young adult group. J Dent Res 1964;43:555-62.  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Proffit WR, Chastain BB, Norton LA. Linguopalatal pressure in children. Am J Orthod 1969;55:154-66.  Back to cited text no. 14  [PUBMED]  
15.Proffit WR, McGlone RE, Barrett MJ. Lip and tongue pressures related to dental arch and oral cavity size in Australian Aborigines. J Dent Res 1975;54:1161-72.  Back to cited text no. 15  [PUBMED]  
16.Proffit WR. Lingual pressure patterns in the transition from tongue thrust to adult swallowing. Arch Oral Biol 1972;17:555-63.  Back to cited text no. 16  [PUBMED]  
17.Wallen RR. Vertically directed forces and malocclusion: a new approach. J Dent Res 1974;53:1015-22.  Back to cited text no. 17    
18.Proffit WR. Equilibrium theory revisited: factors influencing position of the teeth. Angle Orthod 1978;48:175-86.  Back to cited text no. 18  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
19.Archer SY, Vig PS. Effects of head position on intraoral pressures in Class I and Class II adults. Am J Orthod 1985;87:311-8.  Back to cited text no. 19  [PUBMED]  
20.Fr φhlich K, Ther U, Ingervall B. Pressure from the tongue on the teeth in young adults. Angle Orthod 1991;61:17-24.  Back to cited text no. 20    
21.Weinstein S. Minimal forces in tooth movement. Am J Orthod 1967;53:881-903.  Back to cited text no. 21    
22.Proffit WR, Norton LA. The tongue and oral morphology: Influences of tongue activity during speech and swallowing. Am Speech Hear Assoc Rep 1970;5:106-15.  Back to cited text no. 22    
23.Lowe AA, Takada K, Yamagata Y, Sakuda M. Dentoskeletal and tongue soft-tissue correlates: A cephalometric analysis of rest position. Am J Orthod 1985;88:333-41.  Back to cited text no. 23    
24.Liu ZJ, Masuda Y, Inoue T, Fuchihata H, Sumida A, Takada K, et al . Coordination of cortically induced rhythmic jaw and tongue movements in the rabbit. J Neurophysiol 1993;69:569-84.  Back to cited text no. 24    
25.Takada K, Yashiro K, Sorihashi Y, Morimoto T, Sakuda M. Tongue, jaw and lip muscle activity and jaw movement during experimental chewing efforts in man. J Dent Res 1996;75:1598-606.  Back to cited text no. 25    
26.Yashiro K, Takada K. Tongue muscle activity after orthodontic treatment of anterior open bite: A case report. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 1999;115:660-6.  Back to cited text no. 26    
27.Dahan JS, Lelong O. Effects of bite raising and occlusal awareness on tongue thrust in untreated children. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 2003;124:165-72.  Back to cited text no. 27    
28.Andrianopoulos MV, Hanson ML. Tongue-thrust and the Stability of Overjet Correction. Angle Orthod 1987;57:121-35.  Back to cited text no. 28    


[Figure - 1], [Figure - 2]

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