If you snore while sleeping or suffer from neck and back pain, you may not think these symptoms are related. However, these problems may all stem from your tongue and a condition known as tongue-tie or Ankyloglossia. For such a small issue, it can cause major problems starting in infancy and into adulthood. Fortunately, treatment is available.
What is Ankyloglossia?
So what exactly is Ankyloglossia? This condition arises when the tongue is attached too tightly to the floor of the mouth, restricting its full range of motion. About 5% of the population is born with this condition and the majority of those are male.
The lingual frenulum is a thin layer of tissue that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Before birth, this tissue will typically disappear allowing for free range of motion. However, when this doesn’t occur, Ankyloglossia can occur which can lead to problems throughout a patients’ lifetime. A person can also have a tongue tie without a visible frenulum, which is called a posterior tongue tie. Though it’s not known why this happens, some believe there are certain genetic factors that cause it.
Symptoms of Ankyloglossia
One of the most common symptoms of a tongue-tie in babies is difficulty with breastfeeding. If this condition is not diagnosed and treated as a newborn, these infants may grow up to develop several other problems including:
- Speech delays
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mouth breathing
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Neck and back pain
- Improper Posture
- The disproportionate growth of the jaw
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
When a tongue-tie is caught early on in infancy, it can be treated by releasing the restricted tongue tissue, called a frenectomy. The procedure can be performed either with sterile scissors or with a laser to release the restricted tissue. Discomfort is minimal and there is typically little to no blood loss. For newborns with difficulty nursing, it is recommended that mom’s work with a lactation consultant before and after the tongue tie is released and they may also benefit from their upper or lower lip tie being released if those are also restricted.
Treatment in Older Children and Adults
As a person gets older and their body begins to compensate for this condition, treatment may be a little more extensive. Once diagnosed by a professional knowledgeable about tongue ties, adults and older children should undergo evaluation with an oral myofunctional therapist.
An oral myofunctional therapist is someone who is trained in the functions of the tongue and will either have a background in speech therapy or as a dental hygienist. They will evaluate the functional abilities of the tongue and measure the range of motion, as well as teach the patient tongue exercises to help prepare the patient for the upcoming procedure and help them recover after the procedure is over. It is also recommended that patients be evaluated and treated by an Osteopathic physician or someone else that does bodywork who is familiar with ankyloglossia.
Once properly prepared, patients may proceed with a tongue tie release (frenuloplasty) from a properly trained dentist or ear nose and throat doctor using either sterile scissors or a laser to release any restrictive oral tissues. A new approach to treatment includes an Osteopathic physician working with the dentist who does the release to help them determine what tethered oral tissues are causing problems in the patient to help guide the release procedure and achieve a more comprehensive release.
Get an Evaluation Today!
It is amazing how a simple piece of tissue in the mouth can wreak havoc on so many parts of your body. The good news is that there is a procedure that can provide long-lasting relief. If you have experienced the above symptoms with no relief, you should be evaluated for a tongue-tie.
Do your research and ask around to ensure you find a doctor or dentist that is familiar with this condition and highly trained to treat it. Then, make sure that he or she has a good team to support you should you need additional treatment or therapy.