What is a tongue tie?

By Cherie Roberts – Lactation Consultant IBCLC and Yvonne Vannoort – Dentist BDS Otago

Tongue tie is where the tongue and/or lip frenulum (the attachment under the tongue and to the top lip) is too tight, causing restrictions in the movement of the tongue and/or the lip

What problems can be associated with having a tongue tie?

Tongue ties can lead to significant difficulty with key functions of breathing, eating, swallowing and speech. For babies, restriction of the tongue does not allow correct tongue movement and they often struggle to breastfeed well.

I can see a frenulum, does this mean I or my child has a tie?

Having a lip or tongue frenulum is normal, a person experienced in treating these ties needs to assess what is normal and what is not.

Once baby’s tongue tie is released will all symptoms disappear?

A team approach is highly recommended to work towards achieving optimal outcomes after release. Every health care professional who releases oral restrictions should strongly recommend each infant works with a lactation consultant and body worker. In older children and adults other services may be suggested on top of body work such as speech therapy, oral myocardial therapy and breathing training.

Is there any benefit to having my tongue tie released now I am older or is it too late?

It is never too late to have a tongue tie released. The younger you are the least amount of retraining your body needs to bring you back to normal function, but many adults find a great relief in symptoms from having their tongue ties released.

Will having a tongue tie cause issues past breastfeeding?

If the tongue cannot function properly due to restriction it could potentially lead to any of the following issues:

  • Speech difficulties
  • Behavioural problems
  • Clicking jaw/painful jaw/TMJ
  • Food trapping next to gums
  • Malocclusion – requires braces
  • Incorrect swallowing habits
  • Postural problems
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Reflux, colic, other digestive issues
  • Gingivitis and gum disease
  • Eating issues
  • Higher rates of decay
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Snoring
  • Enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids
  • Mouth breathing
  • Teeth grinding
  • Neck, back and facial pain
  • Incorrect palate development
  • Bedwetting

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