Untreated tongue ties have a range of consequences, both in childhood and adulthood. While each patient’s case is unique, it is important to know why your doctor might suggest treatment based on short and long term quality of life implications.
First, let’s review what a tongue tie is: an often overlooked condition where the lingual frenum (cord underneath your tongue that connects it with the floor of the mouth) is too short or tight, restricting movement of the tongue.
While a tongue tie can be assessed and evaluated shortly after birth, in many cases it goes untreated into adulthood. Along the way, a variety of negative health and quality of life implications can be experienced. If you are considering a laser frenectomy for your child, but have concerns that it may be an unnecessary procedure, first educate yourself on these possible health implications:
Untreated tongue ties in infants can lead to…
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing firmer foods. Introducing solid foods may be more difficult with limited tongue mobility, causing a child to gag or cough. This may impact your little one’s nutrition and growth. (SOURCE: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10628708)
- Altered jaw and dental development including a high palate and narrow facial structure.
- Poor sleep, fatigue, mouth breathing, snoring and other abnormal breathing during sleep. (SOURCE: http://www.atlantaperiodontics.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/tongue-tie-sleep-apnea-children-frenectomy-IJPR-research.pdf)
- Poor dental hygiene. When tongue movement is restricted, the tongue cannot sweep across tooth surfaces and spread saliva, both crucial to oral cleansing. (SOURCE: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crid/2013/185803/)
- Delayed speech development due to the tongue being restricted in movement.
- Deterioration in speech if left untreated. Associated psychological issues from impaired speech, including lower self esteem from being perceived as having a speech problem and overcompensating speech habits that can be tough to reverse. (SOURCE: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4587849)
- Digestive issues such as reflux (SOURCE: http://www.theijcp.org/index.php/ijcp/article/view/246)
- Increased gas and bloating resulting from poor tongue coordination and corresponding swallowing of air. (SOURCE: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crid/2013/185803/)
As you can see, tongue ties are a structural defect in the mouth that can cause a host of health issues throughout a person’s lifetime with varying side effects. In the past, tongue ties were regarded as a precursor for other issues but thanks to recent empirical studies there is overwhelming evidence that they are linked to many oral health, airway, speech, and developmental issues.
Many mothers are, understandably, hesitant at first to request any procedure involving a small removal of tissue within their babies’ mouths. However, thousands of tongue tied babies have been treated with laser revisions and have gone on to breastfeed successfully and avoid the many related developmental issues.
Regardless of where you live, there are mothers who have had positive frenectomy experiences and are happy to share these with their community. In fact, connecting with mothers online can be very reassuring and a valuable support system for learning more on the topic (TRY HERE: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tonguetiebabies/).