The phrase, “tongue-tied,” is thrown around a lot either on a playground or out in the world. Usually used after a series of funny tongue twisters, when someones mispeaks, or when they can’t find the words, the phrase is so common that many might not even know that tongue-tie is a real condition that can impede speech development in children.
Known to physicians as ankyloglossia, tongue tie is a congenital oral anomaly that is caused by an unusually short or thick lingual frenulum, the small membrane which connects your tongue to the floor of your mouth. What this dysfunctional frenulum can do is impede the tongue’s mobility, affect speech patterns, eating, and even oral hygiene. If left undiagnosed, tongue-tie can result in a condition known as mandibular prognathism, a facial deformity described as a discrepancy between the chin and the maxilla.
How Can Tongue-Tie Affect Children?
In a recent heartwarming story from CBS, a 6-year-old boy in Texas who was struggling with speech, was discovered to have tongue-tie by a dentist. After the corrective procedure, the boy showed dramatic improvement to the joy of his parents. They had thought the boy couldn’t speak because of a brain aneurysm when he was just 10 days old. Because of this, they believed he would never speak properly. But treating his tongue-tie allowed the boy to speak clearly.
The best way to describe how tongue-tie can affect the speech patterns of children is with an experiment. With your fingers — make sure they’re clean! — try pinning your tongue to the floor of your mouth, and repeating the sentence, “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” What you’ll find is this is surprisingly hard to do. Due to the short frenulum, tongue-tie effectively pins the tongue, significantly reducing it’s mobility and making it much more difficult to form speech. In young children, it can also hinder their ability to breastfeed, and could result in a bite deformity.
How is Tongue-Tie Treated?
After your doctor or dentist diagnoses tongue-tie, we treat it with a simple procedure called a frenectomy. This is a quick and painless procedure that doesn’t even require anesthesia. The procedure removes the frenulum, a thin band of tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. We can also use it to correct lip-tie, which can also affect your child’s speech and development.
What Should I Do Before a Procedure?
Though the procedure can sometimes take only a minute, consult this guides on how best to prepare your child for the procedure. During the procedure, the dentist will provide a mild numbing agent to temper any discomfort. Sometimes you can give your child acetaminophen to help with pain management before a procedure. Speak with your doctor first about a safe dosage for your child’s weight and size.
If your child has tongue tie and you want to correct it, we can help. Please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry today to schedule a full evaluation of your child’s lip or tongue at our Columbia, SC office.