The Link Between Tongue-tie and ADHD Explained

Tongue-tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a common condition in newborns affecting as many as 5% of babies. Often, parents realize the issue, in which the tongue is connected to the floor of the mouth more than it should be, when their baby has trouble eating.

However, not all tongue-ties cause feeding difficulties, and parents may not even realize there is an issue until their child is older. Some children have speech difficulties because their tongue prevents them from making certain sounds correctly. There is also speculation of a relationship between tongue-tie and ADHD.

While there is no evidence that a tongue-tie can cause ADHD, an untreated tie can cause problems that lead to behaviors that mimic the disorder. At Newtown Dentistry, we are committed to ensuring the overall health and well-being of children. That includes treating oral issues that can contribute to health concerns. As part of this commitment, Dr. Christine Landes (Dr. Chris) performs lip and tongue release to help solve breastfeeding issues and more.

Are Tongue-tie and ADHD Actually Connected?

According to the CDC, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the ability to pay attention and control impulses. It can also cause overactivity. Although it’s most commonly diagnosed in children, it can affect adults as well.

Although ADHD has been widely researched, scientists still aren’t certain what causes the condition — and what puts someone at risk for it. There are multiple theories, including brain injury and exposure to certain factors during pregnancy or early childhood (including lead, cigarette smoke, and alcohol use during pregnancy), as well as prematurity and low birth weight, but no definitive answer as to why some children develop ADHD.

However, that hasn’t stopped some parents — and a few doctors — from speculating that tongue-tie can cause ADHD. Many children diagnosed with ADHD also have a tongue-tie, and there is anecdotal evidence that releasing the tie helps bring improvement.

Doctors speculate that this improvement may be more closely related to the tongue-tie release solving the problems that cause the behavioral and cognitive symptoms. More specifically, a tongue-tie release can help improve speech and language and solve sleep issues, including sleep apnea, that can cause behaviors that mimic ADHD. This may be one explanation for the apparent connection between tongue-tie and ADHD.

Tongue-tie and Sleep Issues

A girl has X-rays taken at the dental office.When adults don’t get enough sleep, it often shows up as sluggishness, problems with memory and cognitive function, and sometimes, irritability. When children don’t get enough sleep, the opposite is true: Sleep-deprived kids are often especially active and exhibit problematic behaviors, poor impulse control, difficulty paying attention, and sometimes, anxiety — all of which can be signs of ADHD.

Children can have sleep problems for many reasons, and tongue-tie is on that list. A tongue-tie can contribute to mouth breathing since the tongue position makes it difficult to breathe through the nose while sleeping. A tongue-tie can also prevent the jaw and soft palate in the mouth from forming correctly, which can cause airway restrictions. These restrictions and mouth breathing can prevent your child from reaching the deepest and most restful stages of sleep.

It’s possible, then, that a tongue-tie may be indirectly related to ADHD diagnoses, given the effects of sleep deprivation. Research indicates that children who undergo a tongue-tie release often see improvement in their sleep quality, which in turn leads to better concentration and reduced hyperactivity.

Tongue-tie Release Treatment at Newtown Dentistry

The potential effect that a tongue-tie can have on a child’s overall well-being makes it crucial for pediatricians and pediatric dentists to check for a tongue-tie, and if necessary, perform a tongue-tie release (frenectomy). In fact, this is one reason that we recommend making an appointment for your child as soon as they have their first tooth or by their first birthday. Although we see many babies much sooner due to problems with feeding, an early dental exam ensures we can identify a tongue-tie early on (and treat it if necessary) to avoid future difficulties.

At Newtown Dentistry, tongue and lip ties are corrected using a minimally-invasive LightScapel CO2 laser. Instead of cutting the lingual frenulum (the tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth), the laser vaporizes it. Benefits of this approach include:

  • Little to no bleeding
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Less pain
  • Little to no recovery time

In fact, many infants who undergo frenectomies for help with breastfeeding issues can feed almost immediately after the procedure. Older children who have the procedure may need additional speech and language therapy, or other therapies to fully resolve their symptoms, but it’s common for there to be noticeable improvement within a few days.

Make an Appointment Today!

If you have concerns about your child, whether they are an infant struggling with feeding or an older child exhibiting signs of a tongue-tie, make an appointment at Newtown Dentistry. Dr. Chris will perform a thorough examination and make recommendations on how to best treat a tongue-tie or any other oral issues that may be present, helping your child stay as healthy as possible.

  • AUTHOR

    Newtown Dentistry

  • DATE

    February 9, 2022

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