Tongue-ties are pretty common. According to some statistics, as many as 11 percent of babies are born with the condition. In addition, tongue ties are three times more common among boys than girls and develop in many cases due to genetics.
Did you know that a tongue-tie or lip-tie, also known as "ankyloglossia," can be a serious childhood issue and may interfere with feeding, speech or even breathing?
And, did you know that if this issue goes untreated, it can cause several other problems in adulthood?
Read that again: The issue will not correct itself with time, so it is important to seek intervention if you suspect that your child suffers from a tongue-tie.
If untreated, a tongue-tie can contribute to:
Poor Oral and Dental Health. A tongue-tie can severely restrict the movement of the tongue (lip-ties can also occur, limiting movement of the lips), making it impossible for the tongue to move properly and impeding swallowing. When this happens, saliva flow in the mouth is limited, which means dental plaque and oral bacteria build up and increase the risk of developing cavities and gum disease.
TMJ Dysfunction. Did you know that the ability of the tongue to move or not move has an impact on the way your teeth and jaw develop? It can also affect the placement of your teeth. If your tongue is tied down, it cannot move correctly. This situation can mean the jaw develops smaller or more narrowly than it should. A narrow or small jaw impacts the joints, muscles, nerves and ligaments that make up the temporomandibular joints, which connect your lower jaw to your skull.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, also known as TMJD or TMD, can result in severe jaw and neck pain, difficulty or inability to move the jaw, locking of the jaw joint, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
Sleep Apnea. If the tongue is tied, the mouth and upper airway structures often do not develop as they should. This can cause some oral tissues to sag, which means they can block the airway. If this happens, a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may result. These obstructions can happen a dozen or more times a night (in severe cases, more than 100 times!) for 10 seconds or more at a time.
OSA prevents you from getting a night of restful sleep and can even contribute to an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Speech Issues. One of the most noticeable issues connected to tongue-ties is difficulty speaking clearly. In addition, the formation of some sounds, particularly the "s" sound, may be more difficult, and lisps and other articulation problems may develop.
Early Treatment Is Critical to Avoid Problems Caused by Tongue-Ties
As we mentioned above, several issues can develop as a result of tongue-ties. If a tongue-tie is not treated, the effects may be lifelong. Some of the effects may also be very costly or very difficult to treat in adults. In some instances, the impact of an untreated tongue-tie can result in other serious health problems that can cause chronic illness and an increased risk of death.
The Signs of a Tongue-Tie in Children
As we mentioned, many children are born with this condition, but depending on its severity, tongue-tie can go unnoticed or be misdiagnosed. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of a tongue-tie in children:
- Trouble breastfeeding as newborns and infants
- Pain for the mother when nursing
- Infants who fuss at the breast
- Infants who cannot gain weight or are diagnosed as "failure to thrive"
- A v-shaped or heart-shaped notch at the tip of the tongue when it's stuck out (because the middle is pulled back by the tongue-tie)
- Problems licking a lollipop or an ice cream cone, difficulty moving the tongue from side to side, problems sticking the tongue out
- Difficulty annunciating sounds after age 3, including "t," "d," "l," "r," "n," "th," "s" and "z"
- Persistent dental problems, including teeth that are pushed forward, gap between the front lower teeth, tooth decay and gingivitis because your child can't get rid of food debris easily with their tongue
- Problem chewing age-appropriate solid foods
- Gagging or choking on foods
- Food aversions
- Pocketing of food (holding it in the cheeks)
- Persistent dribbling/drooling
As you can see, leaving a tongue-tie untreated can mean serious problems for children and adults. We'd love to talk to you about your tongue-tie or your child's tongue-tie and how we can help. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation.