Is your child living with a restricted lingual frenum? This fancy-sounding phrase also is the clinical term for a tongue-tie, which occurs when the thin tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too thick or restrictive. A tongue-tie limits the tongue’s range of motion, resulting in a host of potential oral health consequences including developmental issues with the face, speech, tooth and jaw alignment, and more. This blog will delve deeper into the ramifications a tongue-tie could have on your child’s health, and how Orthotropics® could help your child recover and regain full function of their tongue.
The longer a person lives with a tongue-tie, the more widespread the negative impact could be.
Early detection of a tongue-tie is so important. If you live with a restricted frenum, over time you will begin to develop negative habits to compensate for your tongue’s limited range of motion. Symptoms of a tongue-tie vary depending on the age of the person. Infants, for example, often experience issues while nursing, such as failure to thrive, difficulty maintaining a latch, feeding too frequently, or having problems bonding with the mother. Infants also may experience difficulty swallowing or making the transition to solid food. As the child grows, they may experience problems eating, chewing, and swallowing food, which are essential for a developing child. A tongue-tie also has been found to impede speech development, cause mouth breathing, and lead to severely misaligned teeth such as an overbite or gapped teeth.
Perhaps one of the most devastating health consequences of a tongue-tie is the development of obstructive sleep apnea, which could occur even in babies or children, following them into adulthood. Sleep-breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea may develop due to having a narrow upper palate since the tongue permanently rests too low in the mouth, which often leads to chronic mouth breathing.
An adult with an untreated tongue-tie probably has developed a range of negative adaptive behaviors to compensate. Adults who still have a tongue-tie may have aversions to certain types of food because of their swallowing difficulty. Or, they may suffer from an immobile sternum; be more susceptible to acid reflux, heartburn, or hernias—all of which are possible consequences from a lifetime of swallowing problems. Adults living with a tongue-tie also may have a speech impediment or diminished self-esteem because they are self-conscious about the way they speak.
The best remedy for a tongue-tie is early detection, followed by a frenectomy to release the restricted frenum.
Advances in dental technology have made releasing tongue-ties a rather simple and convenient procedure. Performed with a precise dental laser, a tongue-tie can be released in a matter of minutes, restoring the tongue’s full range of motion. This procedure often is referred to as a frenulotomy or frenectomy.
Once the frenectomy is over, however, the work is not done. In many cases, individuals who had been living with a tongue-tie still have to overcome any negative adaptive behaviors that developed as a consequence of living with a restricted range of motion in the tongue.
Orthotropics® can play an important role following a frenectomy.
Facial growth guidance is the primary goal of Orthotropics®, a treatment developed more than five decades ago by Dr. John Mew. Individuals who had been living with a tongue-tie beyond infancy may have had the shape of their face impacted by their tongue’s restricted range of motion. Orthotropics® can change the facial structure, even in individuals who have finished growing, by stimulating bone growth, although this treatment is most effective for developing children between the ages of 5 to 10 years old.
By wearing a specially made oral appliance, the jaws are encouraged to grow to their full potential, and widen the upper dental arch in pursuit of the optimum rest oral posture—consisting of having the lips closed, teeth together, and the tongue resting comfortably against the upper palate while breathing nasally. Patients who receive treatment through Orthotropics® can benefit from having wider dental arches, a more horizontally developed facial structure, and a wider airway that encourages nasal breathing—all of which are beneficial to both oral health and overall health.
Adjunct therapies may include simple stretching exercises that are to be performed on a daily basis, in conjunction with a course of myofunctional therapy—which consists of simple exercises to retrain the tongue and oral muscles to function properly. This therapy can help overcome negative habits that developed while living with the restricted frenum, with noticeable treatment goals typically met after approximately six months, or longer.
Parents, it is important to have your child screened for a tongue-tie as early as possible in life, especially if your baby is experiencing any problems breastfeeding. These examinations can be performed even on very small infants. Adults also should not delay an evaluation if they suspect that they may have a tongue-tie. Treatment can be beneficial for patients of all ages dealing with a tongue-tie.
To learn more about the overall benefits of Orthotropics®, or the effects of tongue-ties, please visit the website of the North American Association of Facial Orthotropics at orthotropics-na.org or send an email to [email protected].