Evaluating tongue function is clinically important as the generation of adequate pressure by the anterior tongue against the hard palate is crucial for efficient oropharyngeal swallowing. Research in the evaluation of tongue function in pediatric populations is limited due to questions about the reliability of children’s performance on objective measures of tongue strength and the lack of comparative data from typically developing children.
The present study examined tongue strength in 150 children and adolescents, 3?16 years of age, with no history of speech or swallowing disorders using the Iowa Oral Pressure Instrument (IOPI). Children as young as 3 years of age were able to tolerate the IOPI standard tongue bulb and were reliable performers on measures of tongue strength with an unconstrained mandible. Tongue strength measurements were elicited in blocks of three trials with a 30-s rest between the trials and a 20-min rest between blocks.
Tongue strength increased with age with no consistent best trial across ages and participants. Males showed a slight increase in tongue strength over females at ages 14 and 16.
This study suggests maximum pediatric tongue strength may be reliably evaluated using commercially available equipment and provides a limited sample comparative database.