Hi I’m emailing you today because I have a really bad problem of sucking on my tongue. Now that I am older I realize that a lot of my nieces and nephews and cousin are doing the same thing too. I just want to know some ways to help me stop sucking on my tongue and my family from it too. I do have allergies and my tonsils are not swollen but my allergies are only seasonal. Even when I’m not experiencing any allergies symptoms I still tend to suck on my tongue. Please help, it bothers me so bad, there are some days when it gets really bad and I have to chew on gum to stop myself from sucking on my tongue because it starts to hurt my jaw.
This isn’t a real simple question to answer…especially when I can’t see you in person to see if there could be any physical/structural reason for the habit. If a lot of people in your family do the same thing, it could be a habit learned from watching the others, but it could also be something that is genetic (for example, the size of your tongues compared to the sizes of your hard palate or other structures.
It is certainly more difficult to plan a program for tongue sucking than it is for thumb sucking or other habits where we can intervene and use reminders. Because you “always” have your tongue right there in the mouth, it is difficult to remember not to suck it since much of our day is spent doing things automatically. And we sure can’t put a sign up in our mouths as a reminder!
If a client comes to me with this type of habit, here is what I do:
- A thorough oral examination to understand the function and sizes, etc. of all components of the oral cavity; how well the tongue can move and make itself into different forms; what the breathing situation is, and much more
- Then we talk about what oral habits are and what damage they can potentially cause someone
- We talk about where the tongue and lips and jaw “should” be when they are not in the act of talking or eating.
- Then I draw up a plan to get all the muscles in the best condition possible, followed by a program to teach the client where to place the structures at rest.
When they reach this point, it is much more possible to stop the sucking habit because we have formed new, desirable habits to take the place of the undesirable ones.
I know this is probably disappointing, but I have to be honest and tell you that I know of no simple way other than common approaches such as you have tried: chewing gum, sucking candies, etc…..and these are not necessarily good for you overall in many other ways.
By far the best solution would be to see if there is a certified orofacial myologist in your area or one that is at least in the certification track. Let me know where you live and I will see if there is someone near you. Thank you for your email and I hope we can solve your problem!
Sandra R. Holtzman
All of us have to evaluate from several perspectives
There is no easy help for an adult (or child) tongue sucker. That’s where psychology has to be incorporated. As with all noxious oral habits, you want to work first on Awareness…
I’ll be leaving these patients within 3-6 months. Do you think it’s fair to start?
She desperately wants to stop this habit & I think it would give her a much better feeling about herself. Plus it will be critical to have success with the other treatments she is receiving. What would you suggest that I do to help her stop this habit?
Mid 30s male suffered a small right occipital lobe CVA. Found face down on the floor after undetermined amount of time…SLP consult 2 days later due to ‘no facial movement bilaterally’.
He is 28 with an extremely high narrow palate thus cannot breathe well. His tongue has the “macro” appearance due to the palate issues. He’s gone through surgeries, ENT referrals, and I started therapy on him to strengthen his lips and to habituate a correct resting tongue posture. I also referred him for a lingual frenectomy that he followed through with. We only worked together around 5 sessions and he was then out of the country with work.
“If lingual frena could be stretched, we wouldn’t have tongue tied adults!”
When you have the great opportunity to see a tongue tie patient prior to surgery, you should do a full evaluation for comparisons post surgery.
Today I saw a Mexican American baby 2 1/2 months old that frequently but not always has her tongue sticking out of her mouth. It reminds me of a Down’s baby, but she has no other Down Syndrome characteristics.