Tongue-tie

Understanding what an actual tongue-tie is, is crucial to understanding the connection it can have on your oral and systemic health. When something has an effect on your dental and oral health, we know it is going to have an impact on your systemic health. Lets' discuss the truth about tongue-ties... 

The Systemic Connection

Unfortunately, tongue-ties don’t  only affect speech. They can negatively influence jaw growth and development, breathing, eating and swallowing. Some research has shown that people with untreated tongue-ties can experience chronic jaw pain, headaches, facial pain, grinding or clenching of their teeth, dental conditions like gum disease and orthodontic issues. Patients with tongue-ties will have limited mobility of the tongue. The head and neck muscle complex then learns how to help move the restricted tongue. Often patients who are tongue-tied will have neck, shoulder and upper back tension or pain. As a result, overused and dysfunctional muscles which continue to  negatively compensate to improve tongue mobility.

What is tongue-tie?

Tongue-ties can be referred to as a restricted lingual frenum or tethered oral tissue (TOT). The frenum can have different appearances however, most resemble a rubber band under your tongue. This band should connect the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Too tight or incorrect connection can cause restriction of tongue movement and inability to allow the tongue to rest in the correct position. Lips and cheeks also have frenums that can be too tight or "tied."

Image by Juan Encalada

Does it really matter?

Yes! Your tongue is such an incredible muscle. Your tongue acts as an internal structure support for your upper jaw. The tongue needs to rest completely in the roof of your mouth. When the tongue does have proper rest posture, your teeth usually will grow straighter, the palate will grow wider and the jaw will develop properly. A tongue-tie will keep your tongue in the floor of your mouth causing the opposite negative affect on your growth and development.

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The importance of pre and post op care.

Myofunctional Therapy is necessary before and after a tongue-tie surgery. When myofunctional therapy is not used prior to surgery, you can expect little to no improvement. This is because the tongue will continue to rest low in the mouth, have low tone and strength, and could likely increase a patient's symptoms instead of resolving them.   The tongue needs to have proper tone and strength prior to the release to improve ease of surgery and postop healing outcomes. Rehabilitation with proper stretches and exercises to the surgical site after surgery will prevent reattachment. Then, the tongue needs to learn how to use it’s new range of mobility properly. The tongue needs to learn how to rest against the palate to support the airway and jaws, how to produce letter sounds for speech and how to swallow correctly. None of these outcomes happen on their own.

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