Sucking one's tongue is an incredibly common habit, affecting both children and adults. It is usually a self-soothing behavior and can happen for a variety of reasons. Often it is a result of early childhood habits or can be due to a medical condition or medication. However, it can also be an indication of anxiety or stress. It can even cause jaw pain and problems with eating and chewing. There are several ways to break this difficult habit, including at-home and professional methods.
A recent viral video of the Dalai Lama asking a young boy to suck his tongue has sparked a wave of controversy. Some commentators have accused him of being a pedophile, while others point out that sticking out the tongue is a traditional greeting in Tibetan culture. It is rooted in the myth of a 9th century king who had a black tongue and people would show their loyalty by showing their own.
Some individuals may suck their tongue to help cope with sleep-related breathing problems such as snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Other patients may suck their tongue to relieve stress or anxiety or because of a problem with swallowing. In this case, a doctor can prescribe a medication that will encourage normal lip movement and help correct the swallowing pattern. In severe cases of tongue thrusting, a dentist can provide oral appliances to create proper bites and close any gap between the upper and lower teeth.