What is Ankyloglossia?
The medical term for the condition known as tongue tie is “ankyloglossia”. The tongue is made up of a very complex group of muscles that are important for all oral functions. When the small fold of tissue that extends from the floor of your mouth to the bottom of your tongue is too thick or too short, this abnormality can cause many issues, affecting many daily activities. Not all tongue ties cause functional problems, and procedures to correct the condition are only necessary if issues with oral function are present. If you suspect a tongue tie, it is important to see a well versed expert like Dr. Christensen, or a lactation consultant.
Infants: Unsuccessful Breastfeeding or Bottle Feeding
To breastfeed successfully, the baby needs to open wide and latch onto both the breast tissue and nipple. Babies with tongue ties aren’t able to open their mouths wide enough to latch onto the breast properly, commonly resulting in a shallow latch and nursing issues. Some symptoms you may notice while nursing include:
- Difficulty latching or staying on latch
- Excessive gas or burps
- Gagging and choking
- Milk dribbles
- Excessive spitting up
- An arched back due to discomfort
- Falling asleep at the breast
- Long feeding times or continual feeding
- Lip calluses or blisters
- Swallowing air
- Chomping on the nipple
- Comes off latch
- Can only feed during letdown
- Tucking of the upper lip
- Fussing/fighting at the breast
- Acts tense while nursing
- Sensitive gag reflex
- “Lazy Eater”
- Difficulty holding a pacifier
Nursing Mothers: Difficult, Painful Breastfeeding
Tongue ties don’t only affect babies who have them. A baby’s tethered oral tissue can also cause physical problems for a breastfeeding mother. These issues can include:
- Painful Latch
- Shallow Latch
- Distorted, sore, damaged, and/or bleeding nipples
- Plugged ducts
- Feelings of failure
- Loss of milk supply (especially after 3 months)
- Nipple throbbing (vasospasms)
The 30 second tongue tie release procedure allows the tongue to lift to the palate providing the latch and suction that is needed to draw the milk from mom. We commonly find that a lip tie is present as well. This is equally important to release because if a baby cannot flare their upper lip they will not be able to latch onto the breast, making breastfeeding difficult, or even impossible. In most cases, once the ties are released, the baby is able to nurse within minutes of the procedure.
Babies: Trouble Eating Solid Food
Training on tongue tie diagnosis and release procedures is lacking in medical and dental programs, so oral issues related to the tethered oral tissue persist after infancy. If you have been told that your child does not have a tongue tie, but many symptoms are present, there is a good chance your child has a posterior (or “hidden”) tongue tie and should be evaluated. These symptoms include:
- Eating slowly (often the last one to finish a meal)
- Very picky about food, especially textures
- Choking when transitioning to solid foods
- Gagging or spitting food out
- Refusing to wean
- Gagging or spitting food out
- Refusing to wean
- Difficulty swallowing
- Easily distracted during mealtimes
- Grazing on food throughout the day
Children: Difficulties with Speech
If a tongue tie is left untreated, oral issues can follow a baby into childhood. While the tongue is remarkably able to compensate and many children have no speech impediments due to tongue ties, others may. Signs and symptoms of a tongue tie during childhood include:
- Trouble articulating sounds (- l, r, t, d, n, th, sh, and z)
- V-shaped notch at the tip of the tongue
- Inability to stick out the tongue past the upper gums
- Inability to touch the roof of the mouth
- Difficulty moving the tongue from side to side
As a simple (but not conclusive) test, caregivers or parents might ask themselves if the child can lick an ice cream cone or lollipop without difficulty. If the answer is no, it may be time to consult with an expert for a diagnosis.
Adolescents & Adults: Breathing Issues
Tongue ties have an impact on oral and facial development, which can impact the development and functions of the airway if left untreated. These symptoms are often present in adolescents or adults with tongue ties:
- Nasal breathing
- Heavy snoring
- Disproportionate grown of lower jaw
- Deficits in midface development
- Altered palate development
- Restricted movement of the tongue
Treatment to release a tongue tie creates a wider range of mobility for the tongue, enabling it to rest on the palate. This can help a patient sleep more soundly because the tongue will no longer block the airway throughout the night.
Problems with Posture, Neck & Back Pain
Tongue ties can have a major impact on the health and function of the jaw joint over time. The head follows the tongue, and if a patient has a tongue tie, this means that the head is tilted low and forward. This posture affects the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM), trapezius muscle, and surrounding muscles, and can result in the following symptoms:
- Head-forward posture
- Neck and back pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Shoulder pain
In circumstances where these symptoms are caused by the tongue tie, the release procedure allows the realignment of the head on the spine. Through exercise, it is possible to retrain the spine and neck to sit in the corrected position and eliminate the pain.
Emotional Issues Linked to Tongue and Lip Ties
One of the most overlooked issues in connection with tongue ties is the emotional factor. Studies have found that 50% more moms of tongue tied babies suffer from postpartum depression than those without. Problems caused by tongue ties can often mistakenly cause guilt and depression in breastfeeding mothers. If you’re a new mother experiencing these issues, it is important to know that this is a common issue with a simple solution, and that it is NOT your fault.
The emotional effect on children with tongue ties can be far reaching into adolescence if leftuntreated. Speech and eating issues caused by a tongue tie can lead to a lack of confidence as a child struggles to compensate. For teens and adults dealing with constant pain or sleep issues, these problems take an emotional toll and can lead to feelings of helplessness. The team at Christensen Orthodontics is here to offer education, support and relief.
Notice These Signs & Symptoms?
If you’re suffering from any issues related to tongue ties, we’re here to help you thrive with diagnosis and treatment. For more information or to talk to an expert if you suspect you or your child has a tongue tie, give us a call at 208-798-4427