Tongue-ties (or “ankyloglossia“) affect about 5% of babies born every year. This condition appears to be more common in boys than girls, but the reason is still unknown. If your child has a tongue-tie, you may wonder whether there is a connection between tongue-tie and speech development. Read on to learn details about tongue-ties from the experts at Newtown Dentistry.
A tongue-tie is a condition that presents at birth where there is an unusual length, thickness, or tightness of the lingual frenulum (the piece of skin underneath the tongue), causing the tongue to be tethered to the floor of the oral cavity. Some tongue-ties may not be problematic, while other cases may require a simple surgical procedure for correction.
In most cases, the lingual frenulum separates naturally before birth, which allows the tongue to have full range of motion. However, with a tongue-tie, the frenulum remains attached. The reason for this is mostly unknown, but experts suggest certain genetic factors may be at play.
Tongue-tied babies may be at risk for poor eating habits, speech difficulties, and swallowing issues.
A tongue-tie can lead to:
Breast-feeding difficulties: When an infant is unable to properly latch to their mother’s breast, it can cause a painful nursing experience and an inability for the child to receive enough breast milk from the mother.
Poor oral hygiene: When the tongue is not mobile enough to keep the teeth clean after eating or drinking, it can lead to cavities or tooth decay.
Sleeping problems: In severe cases, tongue-ties can cause a low resting position for the tongue, which can cause snoring or sleep apnea.
Speech difficulties: When the tongue movement is inhibited, it can cause issues with the articulation of certain sounds or letters.
If left untreated, these conditions could persist or worsen. If you or your child are experiencing any of these issues, Dr. Chris and the team at Newtown Dentistry are experts at properly diagnosing and providing treatment options. They are happy to speak with you!
The Effects of Tongue-Ties on Speech
A tongue-tie can restrict the movement of the tongue, making it difficult to form certain sounds such as “t,” “d,” “n,” and “r.” This difficulty in pronunciation can lead to speech delays. If your child is unable to speak as well as their peers, they may feel more challenged and less confident in themselves—not to mention the other difficulties listed above such as problems with sleeping and oral hygiene.
What Happens If I Suspect A Tongue-Tie?
When it comes time to speak with Dr. Christine Landes (or “Dr. Chris”) at Newtown Dentistry about your child’s tongue-tie, you can rest assured that she will take the time to address all of your concerns and answer every question. She begins each tongue-tie consultation with a thorough examination to determine the severity of your child’s tongue-tie, their range of tongue movement, and whether surgical treatment is necessary. If it is, Dr. Chris will discuss all options with you and ensure that you are fully comfortable with moving forward.
If your child has a speech delay, you may wonder “does a tongue-tie affect speech?” Studies have shown that if your child is suffering from mild, moderate, or severe speech delays, tongue-tie release surgeries (or “frenectomies”) can improve speech development. However, Dr. Chris and her team at Newtown Dentistry are happy to speak with you further regarding whether your child requires this.
What Happens During A Frenectomy Procedure?
Dr. Chris uses a completely safe and effective laser tongue-tie release procedure to help increase the range of motion of the tongue. This procedure can often be done directly in the office. Because this laser is minimally invasive, there are often few to no side effects. This laser tongue-tie surgery:
Is easy and quick to perform
Has no bleeding involved
Has a reduced risk of infection
Has a rapid recovery time
Does not require sedation
Dr. Chris will finish the tongue-tie surgery visit by providing you with a list of exercises to ensure proper healing of the frenectomy. Complete healing may take up to three weeks, but you can resume daily activities right away.
It is important to speak with Dr. Chris and her team at Newtown Dentistry as soon as you suspect a tongue-tie in your child. Laser tongue-tie surgery can improve your child’s ability to speak and articulate as they get older. To learn more about caring for your child’s dental health in the first year and beyond,download our eBook!