The Strange Connection Between Large Tongues and Cheerios

K. Mathews on 17 Jul 2012 at 5:00pm

large tongueYou know what they say about people with large tongues… Well, actually, you probably don’t. I didn’t, anyway. When I saw RealSelf community member pmh1978 ask whether his self-described big tongue would interfere with his braces, I figured, “Of course not.” But it turns out that dentists know the kind of damage a large tongue can do.

“In general, teeth seek a balanced position between the outward force of the tongue and the inward force of the lips,” says orthodontist Dr. Robert Waxler. “Because of this, a large tongue will tend to push the teeth out and create spaces.” So while the braces will have no problem getting the teeth back into the proper position, the trouble will be in keeping the teeth in place after the braces come off.

Dr. Waxler offers a solution, but it’s probably not one pmh1978 will want to hear: “You will need to wear a nighttime retainer FOREVER.” Bleh. Suddenly, a large tongue doesn’t sound so sexy after all.

Dr. Jay Neuhaus agrees with the lifelong retainer diagnosis, and also suggests that pmh1978 consult with a speech pathologist to retrain his tongue not to thrust (push the teeth forward) so much.

Megan P., RealSelf’s Dental Community Manager, has a poor man's tongue thrusting tip of her own: each day, hold a Cheerio with your tongue against the roof of your mouth until it dissolves. This exercise helps to train your tongue muscles not to thrust outward. Plus, you get to eat a Cheerio!

Do you have to wear a lifetime retainer to maintain straight teeth?