Tongue-tie is a condition wherein the strip connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth is abnormally tight, short, or thick. This disorder can cause significant problems in children, infants, and adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 10% of newborn babies are born with tongue-tie.
Because of stubborn myths about the insignificance of tongue-tie, many of these infants grow up struggling with untreated tongue-tie and its consequences. This is unfortunate, especially since tongue-tie treatment is typically quick and easy if it’s addressed in childhood.
As a child grows up, it becomes harder to spot the signs of tongue-tie. More often, ENTs, pediatricians, and dentists only recognize tongue-tie based on its most common symptoms – feeding difficulties, dental issues, and sleep problems.
From the very first time, breastfeeding will be problematic for babies with tongue-tie. According to Pathways, they won’t be able to latch properly, will consume far less milk than their counterparts, and tire out faster because feeding requires more effort than normal.
As the baby grows older, this pattern continues. Children with tongue-tie are often fussy eaters and frequently gag or choke on their food due to impeded jaw and tongue function.
Feeding problems directly contribute to dental issues among tongue-tie patients. Limited tongue movement means that they cannot efficiently sweep food debris from the mouth. This paves the way for tooth decay.
Other medical-dental indicators of tongue-tie are:
- Facial deformity due to underdevelopment of upper jaw and overdevelopment of lower jaw
- Progressive spreading of lower and/or upper front teeth
- Relapse after braces and other orthodontic treatment
- Teeth grinding
- Crowded and crooked teeth
The Dental Council explains that without a background in dentistry, other medical professionals might not be able to put these symptoms together and check for tongue-tie. Therefore, a dentist becomes an invaluable ally when it comes to achieving correct diagnosis of this condition.
Finally, sleep issues are some of the lesser-known and most damaging signs of tongue-tie in children. According to Spear Education, steady pressure from the tongue, cheeks, and lips are crucial to proper jaw development. Any disruption to this balance – such as tongue-tie – can negatively affect airway health.
A tethered tongue is strongly correlated with chronic mouth breathing because of the skeletal and oral structures obstructing the airway. Other manifestations include difficulty sleeping, chronic asthma, and snoring. Lifelong tongue-tie in adults often causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Tongue-Tie Release is Typically Fast, Easy, and Painless
Tongue-tie release should be done as soon as possible, preferably right after an infant is born. However, it’s never too late to treat tongue-tie. To date, children and adults have four available choices for tongue-tie correction
The practice of snipping a tongue-tie dates as far back as 1697. It’s a simple, effective way to release a short or tight lingual frenulum. This method is usually done for neonates and causes minimal discomfort and bleeding for the baby. It requires no analgesic or anesthetic. Typical results are 57% instant breastfeeding improvement, and 80% by 24 hours.
From six months onwards, frenectomy or surgical release of the tongue-tied may be required to deal with more advanced cases. The patient will fast for half a day prior to the operation and will then be placed under general anesthesia, which usually lasts an average of 4 minutes.
Some discomfort can be experienced during recovery, which can take around 10 days. Speech therapy is often undertaken after the surgery. There are no contraindications to frenectomy and it is considered to be very safe.
Revision by Laser
This is one of the latest options for tongue-tie patients of all ages. General anesthesia is rarely required, and your dentist may only use an analgesic gel instead. This incredibly quick procedure can last for a mere two to three minutes.
Patients can expect no pain, no bleeding, and zero risk of infection. Tonguetie.net estimates the healing period to be as fast as 2 hours. A dentist with a background in tongue-tie revision is best to perform this laser procedure.
Revision by Electrocautery
This can be done as an outpatient procedure with a local anesthetic. It’s the safest and most economical way to release mild tongue-tie.
When used in the appropriate circumstance, all of these methods have proven to offer amazing success rates.
Much has been said about the validity of tongue-tie as a medical concern. For those with this condition, however, the struggle that accompanies tongue-tie is as real as any other condition. While it’s certainly best to address tongue-tie during infancy, dentists trained in tongue-tie diagnosis and release can help correct tongue-tie at any age.