Researchers in the field of orthodontics have come to a conclusion: the notion that tongue thrusts (pushing your teeth with your tongue) should move your teeth is a myth. Many of you may have read or heard in person form an orthodontist that tongue thrusts move the teeth and create open bite. Researchers have now found that this notion is just not true, as nowhere enough energy or time is spent by the tongue in trying to move teeth. However, some interesting finds have also been revealed.
Tongue thrusts and open bites
Researchers have concluded that tongue thrusts do not cause open bite. They did this by counting how many times a person swallows in a day, and timing each time they swallow. Every time a person with open bite swallows, their tongue touches the teeth. The amount of time that the tongue spends pushing the teeth in this way is some 5.5 hours short of what would be needed to create an open bite. Researchers have also found that what actually causes open bite is the position of the tongue when it is resting and not in use. If it touches the teeth, the weight of the tongue is enough to open the bite in the first place. This is shocking news, and creates a whole different conversation about what needs to be corrected in order to cure open bites.
Cures for open bites
The focus now is to put the tongue in a new position when resting, as this will cause the bite to close back up. Luckily, this can be done with the same old orthodontic treatment that aligns the jaws to each other. When the jaws are misaligned, the tongue will rest on the teeth, and will push the teeth. But when in synch, the tongue will rest behind the teeth, and this is normal. Somewhere around 80% of patients thus treated for open bite will be cured using the old method. The use of habit appliances and elastics, traditionally thought of as the best method to cure open bites without “heavier” orthodontics (meaning traditional fixed orthodontic braces), is, however, entirely ineffective at curing this problem, as it seems that it is caused by the misalignment of the jaws themselves. And that can only be fixed by myofascial surgery, or orthodontics.