Young girl in red bathing suite smiling outdoors

Why Children Need A Fitted Tongue Thrust Appliance

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Is tongue thrust on your radar? If your child's tongue pushes between or against their teeth while they're talking, swallowing, or resting, they may have a tongue thrust. It's normal for young children to push food out of their mouths while they're learning to use their tongues. But this generally stops before the age of 6. If it goes on beyond that age, it might be a sign of tongue thrust.

The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to support your child, and a fitted tongue thrust appliance might help them. As you read on, we'll go into the causes of tongue thrust as well as info about a tongue thrust appliance, how it works, and how to get one. We'll also cover how to make sure your kid maintains their oral health while they're wearing a tongue thrust appliance.


Various factors can cause tongue thrusting. So everyone's experience with tongue thrust varies. Some causes include:

  • Prolonged thumb or finger sucking or using a pacifier for an extended time
  • Obstruction in the upper airway
  • An open bite or missing teeth
  • Weak oral muscle strength or tone
  • Genetics

The Appliance

A stainless steel tongue thrust appliance is often recommended as a treatment option for simple thrusting. Don't worry! They're not as scary as they sound; they look like a simple mouthguard. And your child might only need to wear one for a few hours a day and at night. In some cases, though, it may be recommended that the appliance is fixed and is only removable by the orthodontist.

How The Appliance Works

Tongue thrust appliances come in several different models. Some models have a grid behind the teeth that block the tongue from pushing forward between the top and bottom incisors. Another model, known as a "palatal crib", has an acrylic bead in the back of the device and rests over the tongue. The purpose of it is to act as a retainer when swallowing.

There are also "hybrid" appliances aimed at working on thumb-sucking and tongue thrusting by positioning the tongue correctly in the mouth and serving as a reminder to stop the habit.

Where to Get A Fitted Tongue Thrust Appliance

An orthodontist fits tongue thrust appliances. Your child will need to take dental impressions to get an appliance that fits in their mouth. It's important to know that it may take a few days or weeks to adjust to having the appliance in their mouth. But it will happen, so be patient!

Tongue thrust dental guards may also require an adjustment as the child develops. Your orthodontist will let you know how often your child will need to go in for tweaks. So make sure an orthodontist specializing in pediatric dentistry makes the tongue thrust mouthguard for your child. In many cases, oral or speech therapy is also recommended to help teach the child to use their mouth and tongue correctly.

Maintaining Oral Health With An Appliance

Wearing a tongue thrust appliance requires extra care when it comes to your child's oral health. Apart from daily brushing and flossing, make sure they clean the appliance every day. Their orthodontist may have them massage their gums and gargle regularly too. Also, they'll want to avoid any hard, sticky foods while wearing the device.

If your child has a tongue thrust and needs a mouthguard for tongue thrusting, you know what to expect. There are several different kinds of tongue thrust appliances out there. And it's important to work with an orthodontist specializing in pediatric dentistry when you're looking to get your child fitted for one. Of course, make sure to help your child stay on top of their oral care with daily brushing, flossing, and any other recommendations from their orthodontist. With all of this info in your back pocket, you're bound for success in helping your child work through tongue thrust. So talk to your dentist right away about a treatment plan.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

paper airplane

Want more tips and offers sent directly to your inbox?

Sign up now

Mobile Top Image
Was this article helpful?

Thank you for submitting your feedback!

If you’d like a response, Contact Us.

Mobile Bottom Image