You’ve probably heard the phrase “tongue-tied” to describe someone who doesn’t know what to say; however, you might not know that a tongue tie is a common condition affecting individuals of all ages, from infants to adults. If you want to know more about tongue ties, keep reading to explore what they are, their impact on oral health, and potential treatment options.
What is a Tongue Tie?
Tongue ties, also known as ankyloglossia, occur when the frenulum — the thin piece of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth — is too short or tight. This restricts the tongue’s mobility, affecting various oral functions. Sometimes, tongue ties are apparent from birth, but in other cases, they may only become noticeable as a child grows or reaches adulthood.
Impact on Oral Health
Tongue ties may not seem like a big deal, but they can negatively impact oral health in many different ways, including:
- Feeding difficulties: In infants, a severe tongue tie can limit the tongue’s movement and affect their ability to latch and suck while breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
- Speech issues: As children grow, a tongue tie can contribute to speech difficulties, especially with sounds that require a free-moving tongue.
- Dental health: Tongue ties can make it difficult to effectively clean the teeth and cums, leading to poor oral hygiene. This, in turn, can increase the risk of many different dental health problems, including cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
- Oral comfort: If the tongue is restricted, it can cause discomfort, pain, or even tension headaches, particularly when trying to perform actions that require tongue movement like licking an ice cream cone or playing a wind instrument.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose a tongue tie, a dentist or medical professional will perform a thorough examination. If the tongue tie is mild and does not cause any problems, it does not usually require treatment. Sometimes, the frenulum can even loosen on its own over time.
If your dentist identifies a more severe tongue tie and suspects it is causing functional issues, there are a few different treatment options. The right option for each patient is determined by considering their age, symptoms, and severity of the tongue tie. Your dentist can discuss these options with you to help you make informed decisions about your oral health.
- Frenotomy (also known as a frenulotomy): This procedure is relatively simple and quick. It involves snipping the tight frenulum, releasing the tongue and allowing it to move freely. Pain, discomfort, and bleeding are minimal, so anesthesia is not needed. Frenotomies are often performed on infants, and the healing process is usually swift.
- Frenuloplasty: If the tongue tie is more significant, or if the condition continues to cause problems into adulthood, a more complicated surgical procedure called a frenuloplasty may be recommended. This procedure is often done under local anesthesia. The surgeon cuts through the frenulum and then closes the wound with sutures. Complications are rare, and the sutures are absorbed into the body, so you don’t have to worry about getting them removed.
- Oral exercises: For patients with mild tongue ties, certain oral exercises can help improve tongue mobility and minimize discomfort. These exercises can also help patients as they recover from a frenuloplasty.
Recovery and Follow-up
Frenotomies require little to no recovery time, and infants who undergo the procedure can usually resume nursing right away. Recovery following a frenuloplasty is also quick, but it can be a bit more involved. Patients may be advised by their dentist or surgeon to perform specific exercises to enhance their tongue’s range of movement. Additionally, attending regular follow-up appointments with the dentist or other healthcare provider is crucial to ensure proper healing and address any concerns as they recover.
Improve Your Oral Health With Jenson Dental
Addressing tongue ties, especially early in life, can have a positive impact on oral health, overall comfort, and quality of life. If you suspect you or your child might have a tongue tie, it’s important to seek professional guidance. At Jenson Dental, our experienced team can provide comprehensive evaluations to determine the best course of action and provide treatment options tailored to fit your unique needs.
Don’t let a tongue tie hold you back from enjoying a healthy life and showing the world a vibrant smile. Schedule an appointment with us today to take the first step toward optimizing every aspect of your oral health.