Have you ever heard of tongue training? Many parents are not aware of how their child’s tongue and breathing should function. Tongue training therapy is an effective treatment of orofacial myofunctional disorders (disorders affecting the functions of the face and mouth). Not all children need tongue exercises, though.
6 Signs Why Your Child Might Need Tongue Training Therapy
1. Having a tongue tie
Tongue ties are usually diagnosed in babies, the first symptom being breastfeeding difficulties. A tongue tie restricts normal movement of the tongue due to short or tight frenulum, affecting the infant’s suckling technique.
Tongue exercises can improve tongue mobility and include tongue massage and press-down exercises. Exercises are completed with help from a parent or caregiver and should be performed when the baby is in a quiet or early active state to facilitate his or her participation. The person helping the baby with tongue exercises should have clean hands, and short, filed fingernails.
2. Undergoing tongue tie surgery
When the tongue tie is too severe and prevents the baby from feeding properly, a frenulotomy (tongue tie surgery) is performed. Tongue training exercises after surgery help the baby get used to the new state of their tongue, learn normal tongue movement, and strengthen their tongue muscles in order to improve feeding technique. These tongue exercises need to be performed two or three times a day for a few weeks, until the baby’s feeding technique has improved.
3. Breathing through their mouth
Mouth breathing is a serious problem in both children and adults. Parents need to take action when their children are permanently breathing through their mouth (not the occasional mouth breathing due to nasal congestion from a cold).
Mouth breathing can have multiple causes, such as the shape of the child’s jaw and mouth, blocked nasal passages, or bad habits.
This problem needs to be addressed to because untreated mouth breathing can cause a myriad of health and aesthetic issues: crooked teeth, bad breath, facial deformities, visible gums, and persistent pain. Not being able to breathe properly can lead to problems in the child’s mental development, such as difficulties with concentration, sleep disorders, ADD and ADHD misdiagnosis, and slower cognitive development.
Mouth breathing and snoring are connected to each other. Breathing through one’s mouth can cause snoring. Many people snore with an open mouth and consequently wake up with a dry mouth and a sore throat.
When you breathe through your mouth, your airway is narrower and more elongated, which makes vibrations more likely. Inhaled air becomes turbulent and causes the soft tissues at the back of the mouth to vibrate, leading to what we call snoring.
Another problem with sleeping with your mouth open is that you risk breathing in harmful things, such as allergens and bugs. Correct, nasal breathing eliminates this risk as nostrils filter and ventilate the air you breathe.
5. Having swallowing problems
Your child might need to practice tongue training exercises if they have trouble swallowing. This is a medical condition called dysphagia and it can lead to aspiration (food or other materials accidentally entering the airways).
Dysphagia is a serious condition that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. Doctors usually prescribe oral motor exercises that strengthen tongue muscles, along with other treatments such as dietary changes, surgery, or medicines.
6. Having speech problems
Tongue exercises are an important part of speech therapy. Speech therapy exercises are beneficial for everyone, including children, even if they are dealing with minor enunciation difficulties. If your child is not speaking clearly, they might have a lazy tongue. The tongue is like any other muscle; it needs regular workout and stretching. Speech therapy can help you obtain a clean and clear speech and speak a second or third language more clearly, and is definitely recommended to children who are dealing with more serious speech problems.
Tongue exercise are recommended for orofacial myofunctional disorders, or disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. Preventing and treating these issues is vital as they affect directly or indirectly a series of important functions, such as breastfeeding, skeletal growth, swallowing, speech, occlusion, oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatments, facial aesthetics, and more. Many of these problems originate with insufficient nasal breathing or oral breathing.
Importance of Tongue Training Therapy
One of the ways to treat myofunctional disorders is ensuring a correct tongue posture through tongue training. Exercises are simple and easy to perform, and there are devices that can help with oral motor exercises, such as Myospots.
Myospots are small, dissolvable, and adhesive pads that you need to place on the roof of your child’s mouth, 2-3 mm behind the two front teeth. Apply gentle pressure with your thumb against the palate.
Myospots adhere to the mouth palate and stimulate tongue exercise spots, determining the child’s tongue to involuntarily and unconsciously elevate in order to touch the pad. The tongue is guided and reminded where to elevate, exercising until the spot is completely dissolved under the effect of saliva. Find out more about Myospots and their role in tongue training therapy!