What is a Tongue Crib?

Tongue Crib

What is a Tongue Crib? And What is it Used for?

A tongue crib is an orthodontic appliance that is used to help patients take control and break bad habits including tongue thrusting or thumb sucking. A tongue crib will be used when a doctor, pediatric dentist, orthodontist or speech therapist identify a problem with a child’s speech or swallowing patterns. Orthodontist and pediatric dentists will recommend a tongue crib if they notice that bad habits like thumb sucking and tongue thrusting are causing to be pushed out of line. Ultimately, your local orthodontist, will be the person who will provide the tongue crib.

What does a Tongue Crib look Like?

A tongue crib looks very much like a retainer, but has some aspects that really separate it. A tongue crib starts with two bonds, or rings, that will sit on you back molars. Depending on what is trying to be fix, the rings can sit on the upper or lower molars. From those rings, a wire connects the two rings and follows the shape of the teeth. At the center point of the wire, there will be a fence or cage. This cage will prevent the tongue from protruding too far and remind a child not to suck their thumb.

What is a Tongue Crib | Showtime Smiles

How Long Do I Have to Wear a Tongue Crib?

How long a patient needs to wear a tongue crib depends on the case being fixed. In some occasions, a patient will only need to wear the tongue crib for a few months, while others may need to wear a tongue crib for the entire duration of their orthodontic treatment. It is also dependant on how well the patient responds to the tongue crib. The patient needs to commit to breaking the bad habits, for example, not sucking their thumb or allowing their tongue to continually push against the gate.

What is Tongue Thrusting?

Tongue thrusting is when a patient has developed a habit of placing their tongue in an incorrect position, typically protruding out during rest, talking or swallowing. Tongue thrusting not only can affect your speech, cause “open bite” and even causing difficulty eating in later years.

In a purely orthodontic sense, the improper placement of the tongue causes teeth to fall out of alignment and cause open bite. With the help of a tongue crib, it will help patients stop the teeth from continually being pushed out of alignment and to stop bad habits.

What Causes Tongue Thrusting?

There are many things that can cause someone to develop a habit of tongue thrusting. These include:

  • Thumb sucking or reliance on artificial nipples for feeding
  • Genetic/Hereditary factors
  • Allergies or nasal obstructions
  • A large tongue
  • Muscular, neurological or physiological abnormalities

To ultimately discover the cause of tongue thrusting necessitates a one on one with a patient. A trained professional will work with the patient to determine habits and identify what caused the tongue thrusting.

How will a Tongue Crib Affect Talking?

A tongue crib will ultimately affect the way you talk because it will prevent a patient’s tongue from coming too far out. For those who are wearing a tongue crib, it will be another appliance that will sit in your mouth, so it will affect speech. Initially patients will have some trouble pronouncing words with S’s. However, it will not prevent speech, it will simply take a patient a couple weeks to get used to the appliance.

Eating with a Tongue Crib?

A tongue crib should not be removed for eating. It is to be a permanent appliance, similar to that of braces, however, patients can eat normally without any major adjustments to their diet. The recommended foods to not eat with a tongue crib is much the same to braces, the only thing we want to highlight is that patients with a tongue crib should avoid hard, sticky foods so that they don’t accidentally break the tongue crib.


We do recommend that patients who anticipate needing a tongue crib, we encourage to look on YouTube for what to expect when it comes to wearing a tongue crib. There are many patients who have had tongue cribs, who have created YouTube videos documenting their experience. We think these are great first hand testimonials of what to expect and give a realistic, optimistic view of the experience!