When you think of a tongue tie, you may think of babies being unable to breastfeed. However, tongue ties can still present problems for adults. You may have a tongue tie from childhood and not realize it. Tongue tie can create problems with speech, oral activities, and even oral hygiene. There are treatment options, whether you are an adult with a tongue tie or have a baby with a tongue tie.
What is Tongue Tie?
A tongue tie is a condition that limits the tongue’s range of motion. There is a small tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This tissue—the frenulum—can be too short or limit the tongue’s motion too much.
While it is not uncommon to see in adults, we usually see tongue ties in infants and children. Tongue tie affects a baby’s ability to suck or latch to breastfeed. This can cause malnourishment in infants. In addition, if professionals do not treat the tongue tie, it can later cause speaking, eating, and swallowing issues.
Some patients may not have significant side effects in childhood. However, they may notice more difficulties as they get older. For example, a tongue tie can affect your ability to lick an ice cream cone, play a wind instrument, or even interfere with your speech.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
If you or your child needs treatment for a tongue tie, there are a few options. Keep in mind: not everyone needs to have their tongue tie resolved. Sometimes, the tongue tie issues can resolve by themselves, or the problems are not severe. However, if a tongue tie interferes with your ability to thrive, you can talk to your dentist or another medical professional about treatment.
A non-surgical option for tongue ties is speech therapy. Tongue tie can impair a patient’s ability to make sounds like “th,” “s,” “r,” “l,” and more. The way you make certain sounds depends on the placement of your tongue. You cannot make certain sounds if your tongue cannot move properly. If surgery is not an option for you, a speech therapist may be able to improve your speech pattern. They can help you find ways to move your tongue more effectively or find new ways to make sounds.
A frenectomy is a simple surgical procedure that a doctor or dentist can perform in their office. The frenulum is the target for this particular procedure since it is what limits the tongue’s movement. This surgery can be done with or without anesthesia because there are very few nerve endings or blood vessels in the frenulum.
Your chosen medical professional will sterilize the frenulum and then use scissors to free the frenulum. In a dentist’s office, they may decide to use a laser rather than sharp instruments. There should be little to no bleeding following the procedure. A laser has an even smaller chance of bleeding or infection. Immediately following the frenectomy, a baby will be able to breastfeed.
Generally, there are no complications of a frenectomy. Rare complications include infection, bleeding, or damage to the tongue.