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UNDERSTANDING TONGUE-TIES IN CHILDREN

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

It is estimated that in America 4-11% of children are born with Ankyloglossia or a tongue-tie. However, due to a lack of examination at birth, most go undiagnosed until much later in life. While tongue-ties are not a fatal condition, they can be very limiting and cause issues with a baby's ability to breastfeed and long-term airway, sleep, and health conditions.


patient with tongue tie

Tongue-ties are a congenital condition in which a child’s tongue remains attached to the floor of the mouth. This happens when the thin strip of tissue (the lingual frenulum) connecting the tongue and the floor of the mouth is shorter than normal. The short frenulum can restrict tongue mobility.


In some cases, tongue-tie can be hereditary, running in a family. The condition is also 3-times more prevalent in boys than girls.


WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A TONGUE-TIE?


During the regular cleaning, examine your patient for physical signs of a tongue, lip, or cheek tie. Additionally, ask questions to see if the patient is exhibiting any symptoms that might help to identify a tongue-tie limitation:


Tongue-tie may cause the following symptoms in infants:

  • Difficulty latching when breastfeeding

  • Breastfeeding for extended periods of time

  • Constant hunger

  • Trouble gaining weight

  • A clicking sound while the child is feeding

In young children, tongue-tie symptoms may include:

  • Speech impairments

  • Swallowing difficulties

  • Difficulty moving the tongue toward the roof of the mouth or from side to side

  • Difficulty licking ice cream

  • Difficulty playing a wind instrument

  • Problems sticking the tongue out

  • Difficulty kissing

Breastfeeding mothers may also have symptoms related to an infant’s tongue-tie, including:

  • Cracked, sore nipples

  • Pain during nursing

  • Insufficient milk supply


HOW CAN MYOFUNCTIONAL THERAPY HELP A PATIENT WITH A TONGUE-TIE?


Pediatricians and airway dentists often work in connection with Myofuntional Therapists to treat children with tongue-ties, lip-ties, and other airway limiting oral functions.


Myofunctional therapy is an exercise-based therapy focused on the muscles of the mouth, tongue, and face. The exercises are designed specifically to train proper breathing, speaking, chewing, and swallowing.


Listen to Episode 6 of the Airway First podcast from the Children's Airway First Foundation to find out more about tongue-ties and how patients work with Myofunctional Therapists:

Airway First Podcast from Children's Airway First

If you identify a child or patient with a tongue-tie, as a LifeGuard it is your responsibility to help guide them towards Myofunctional Therapy and resources that can help them with the issue. Helping them towards the proper medical care can ensure them better health for years to come.


oral health coaching and dental practice education


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