Oral motor deficits can occur after an injury to the brain or central nervous system and also exist with congenital abnormalities such as Down syndrome. Tongue weakness can cause deficits with eating, speaking and swallowing. It is important to address this weakness as swallowing dysfunction can cause aspiration -- food particles are inhaled into the lungs, causing pneumonia. There are several exercises you can do to strengthen the tongue and surrounding oral muscles.
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Sit comfortably in front of a mirror. Place the tip of your tongue between your upper and lower front teeth. Gently bite down to stabilise your tongue. Maintain this position and swallow. Repeat 10 times.
Place a rolled piece of gauze between the upper and lower front teeth and bite down gently. Keep it in place and swallow. Repeat 10 times.
Sitck your tongue straight out as far as possible, then draw it back in as far as it will go. Repeat 10 times.
Drink thick liquids such as milkshakes or yoghurt through a straw. Begin with a straw with larger diameter, and progress to narrower straws. Perform these exercises 2 to 3 times per day.
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