You know that small fold of tissue that reaches from the floor of the mouth to the underside of your tongue? That's called your lingual frenum. Typically, the lingual frenum detaches before birth, allowing the tongue to have full range of motion. If it doesn't detach fully, it can restrict your tongue's ability to move. That's called tongue tie. Tongue tie can limit craniofacial growth and can cause issues with breathing, breast feeding, eating, talking and swallowing. Diagnosing tongue tie should go far beyond a mere visual evaluation of the frenum by looking most importantly at the ability of the tongue to move and function as it should.
What Happens If Tongue Tie Goes Untreated?
Untreated tongue ties can compromise the growth and development of your facial bones and other soft tissues in your mouth. High, narrow palates resulting in restricted nasal airways are common with tongue ties, and common complications can include mouth breathing, tongue thrust, crowding of teeth and orthodontic issues, digestive problems, impaired speech, sleep disorders and head/neck pain.
How Can Myofunctional Therapy Help?
If there is a restriction found (tongue tie), the tongue tie may need to be surgically released. This procedure is commonly referred to as a frenectomy. Myofunctional therapy is recommended both before and after a frenectomy. Stretching and strengthening exercises will help prepare the tissue for release and ensure that the tissue doesn't reattach after a frenectomy is completed. After a frenectomy, it is crucial to re-educate the tongue and facial muscles to help restore proper balance and function. Many erroneously assume that merely releasing a tongue tie will automatically correct the underlying issues. I offer this analogy: A tongue with a tongue tie is similar to a domesticated tiger. A domesticated tiger only knows how to do what it has always done (wait to be fed). If you release it out into the wild, it has NO idea what to do out there (hunt). Likewise, even after a release, the tongue will continue to function the same as it always has until it learns new patterns of function through myofunctional therapy.