Tongue Sucking: Causes & Treatment

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Tongue sucking
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Tongue sucking is a habit that makes one appear as if they are sucking on hard candy. This condition is generally seen in children and adults as well. Tongue-sucking is less common than thumb or finger sucking but has many problems related to it, including aches, enlargement of the tongue, etc.

If you or your loved one has this problem, or if you are wondering what is this problem and how to get rid of it, you have come to the right place. Through this article, we will talk about tongue-sucking conditions and treatment. 

Causes of tongue-sucking

Tongue-sucking can be a problem established in childhood or could be due to some medical condition or medication.

In children  
Tongue sucking

Non-nutritive suckings, like sucking a pacifier or thumb, are associated with relieving stress or anxiety. Children generally tend to suck pacifiers or fingers until the age of four years. 

Non-nutritive sucking is often combined with other comforting habits like holding a blanket, a doll, or a stuffed animal. This helps babies sleep better and faster. 

Some children do not grow out of the habit this could be related to continued needs of security and anxiety relief. 

Some parents might see a white coating on the child’s tongue, here is how you can treat it. 

In adults

In adults, this could be a developed habit due to anxiety or could be because of medications or medical conditions.

One such example is tardive dyskinesia. Tardive dyskinesia is a side effect caused by neuroleptic drugs. This occurs when the person undergoes involuntary movements due to excess neurotransmitter dopamine. This causes uncontrolled movements, like twitching, grimacing, and thrusting.

Some people may experience this due to medical conditions like cerebral palsy, dystonia, etc. 

If as an adult, tongue sucking becomes uncontrollable or hard to manage, it is always suggested to see a doctor and plan a proper over-all check-up. 

How to stop tongue-sucking?

There are ways through which one can help themselves to control tongue-sucking. Though if these suggested remedies do not work for you, seeking professional help is advised.

There are methods which you could try on your own, at your home, to distract yourself from tongue-sucking.

How to stop tongue sucking
  1. Distracting yourself from tongue-sucking. Chewing gum can help in forgetting tongue-sucking since your mouth would be already occupied, and there are fewer chances for tongue-sucking.
  2. Setting timely reminders. There are many apps that you could use to set reminders. Set reminders of 15 to 30 minutes apart, and analyze yourself. How many times do you find yourself sucking your tongue when the alarm goes off, and how do you feel while doing it. 

These questions will help you understand yourself better and the reason why you might be sucking your tongue. This could be due to anxiety or stress or any other medical condition. In the case of a medical condition, you may also prefer to see a professional. 

Which professional can help you?

If the home remedies or trying to distract yourself from tongue-sucking seem to not work for you, you may want to see the doctor. Here are a few ways doctors can help you.

How to stop tongue sucking
  1. Doctors may suggest you use a removable plate. This might act as a reminder for you to stop tongue-sucking, and it also becomes hard for one to suck with the plate in the mouth. This approach is also known as reminder therapy.
  2. Consulting a speech-language pathologist may help, particularly for a person whose eating and speech are affected due to tongue-sucking. A speech-language pathologist may suggest few exercises and provide a few tools which can help in reducing tongue sucking overtime. 
  3. Talking to a psychologist or mental health therapist would be helpful, as they can examine and help in suggesting other methods to relieve stress or anxiety. Tongue-sucking is often paired with anxiety and stress disorders as well. 

Impacts of tongue-sucking

Tongue-sucking can lead to several side effects, if not treated properly can later become hard to overcome the habit. Here are a few side effects of tongue-sucking:

  1. Enlargement of hyperplasia of the tongue.
  2. Injuries to the tongue.
  3. Improper positioning of the tongue 
  4. Pain from excessive sucking 

Research showed that tongue-sucking may affect a person’s emotional health as well. One may feel self-conscious about tongue-sucking since most of the time the person would not be aware that they are sucking the tongue. 

The extent and severity of this effect would depend on the following factors:

  1. How long a person is sucking the tongue
  2. How many times a day do they suck 
  3. And with what intensity

The higher the numbers or percentage is the higher are the chance that it is affecting one’s emotional health. 

When to see a professional

If you have tried home remedies like chewing gum, distracting yourself, setting reminders, and still nothing worked for you, then maybe it is the right time for you to see the doctor. Your doctor will assist you in finding ways to break the habit of tongue-sucking. 

A visit to the dentist may also help they can help in identifying what might be affecting your teeth or jaw positioning. 

Here is how you can maintain your dental hygiene.

If your child is having the habit of tongue-sucking, you may consider visiting a pediatrician. You can discuss various milestones with the doctor, and they can let you know if your child’s non-nutritive sucking is okay for their age or not. 

The pediatrician might also suggest you visit a medical specialist to help your child break the habit of their tongue-sucking. 

Tongue-sucking can affect people of all ages for different reasons. Reasons may vary from just a habit, to relieve anxiety, and stress, to other medical conditions or medications. 

There are a few home remedies like setting reminders, chewing gum, which help in breaking the habit, but in case it doesn’t help it is always recommended to seek professional help. One can also consider going to a psychologist to better understand the reason behind tongue-sucking. 

Enlargement of hyperplasia of the tongue, Injuries to the tongue are few effects of tongue-sucking. 

Addressing the concern may help in clarity of speech, more comfort, and confidence. 

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