Why Reverse Swallowing is a Problem

Serving Brentwood, Belle Meade and Green Hills Areas of Nashville TN

Did you know that a child swallows, on average, two times per minute? However, improper swallowing techniques could affect a child’s jaw development, facial profile, and alignment of their teeth. Reverse swallowing is a negative behavior that develops as a consequence of tongue thrust. Your Nashville airway dentist Dr. Brian Devine wants to educate parents on the potential dangers of reverse swallowing and how Myobrace® therapy helps.

What is reverse swallowing, and why is it harmful?

reverse swallowing

Reverse swallowing also is known as incorrect swallow or infantile swallow. This swallowing pattern works in the adverse direction of normal growth, often hindering the development of the face and jaws.

Correct swallowing should be a fairly simple function. A normal swallowing patter should be performed with minimal exertion of the tongue, jaws, and mouth, which are part of the orofacial system.

The steps of a normal swallow include:

  • Lips and teeth remain closed
  • Mandible, or lower jaw, makes a slight upward motion
  • The tip of the tongue touches the premaxilla—the small cranial bones at the front of the upper palate
  • There is minimal compression on the temporomandibular joint 

Correct swallowing patterns allow the dental arch to develop fully, and help form proper bite alignment.

What happens when you reverse swallow?

  • Lips stay open
  • Teeth remain parted
  • The tip of the tongue extends down, forward, and between the teeth, potentially creating a dental gap
  • The mandible moves backward
  • The tongue moves down and away from the jaws
  • The head and neck move forward, in an attempt to force food to the back of the throat

Look for these signs of reverse swallowing in your child 

  • Noticing the tongue sticking out between teeth when swallowing, speaking, or at rest
  • Frequently breathing through the mouth
  • Unable to completely close the lips
  • Being a slow, fast or messy eater
  • A speech impediment—especially a lisp

Consequences of a Reverse Swallow

  • Crowded teeth, which can lead to malocclusion, also known as a misaligned bite
  • An obstructed airway, either because of the incorrect position of the tongue, or narrowed dental arches not leaving enough room in the mouth to accommodate the tongue
  • Deterioration of the temporomandibular joint

These issues can have a significant impact on your oral health, not to mention your overall wellness. A blocked airway leads to obstructive sleep apnea, which is a serious sleep-breathing disorder. This affects your quality of sleep, hinders your physical and mental health, and, if left untreated, elevates your risk of several serious, life-threatening conditions. Deterioration of the temporomandibular joint causes loose teeth, failure of dental restorations, jaw pain, clicking, and popping sounds when your jaws open and close, earaches, painful headaches that may feel like migraines, and upper shoulder pain.

How Myobrace® Helps

Reverse swallow is a negative oral habit known as orofacial myofunctional disorder. Habit correction is the first stage of treatment involving Myobrace®, which is a minimally invasive, removable intra-oral appliance. In the case of someone with reverse swallow, Myobrace® encourages relaxation of the facial muscles while also restoring ideal oral posture: with lips closed, teeth closed, and the tongue resting gently against the upper palate. This posture simultaneously prevents tongue thrust that leads to reverse swallow, while also encouraging proper swallowing techniques.

To learn more about how TMJ and Airway Associates of Nashville uses Myobrace® to treat reverse swallow and other orofacial myofunctional disorders in Middle Tennessee, call our office at (615) 329-1854 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Brian Devine if you are located in the areas of Belle Meade and Green Hills.