Understanding Tongue-Tie

Understanding Tongue-Tie

Whether you know it or not, your tongue plays a major part in dental alignment and the appearance of our faces. A big, beautiful, wide smile with straight teeth is unlikely for someone who has untreated tongue tie because the condition, medically known as Ankyloglossia, prevents the upper jaw and mid-face from developing properly—but an unhealthy smile is only the beginning for someone with tongue tie.

What is Tongue-Tie?

Tongue-tie, quite literally, means your tongue is tied to the lower mouth area by extra tissue called lingual frenulum. By being “tied” down, tongue movement is restricted. An example of this would be people who have difficulty licking around their lips or raising their tongue tip inside of their mouth. If tongue tie is left untreated, it can cause serious issues in health and the overall quality of life. For adults who have tongue-tie, they’ve likely spent all of their lives struggling with the way they eat and talk.

Signs and Symptoms of Tongue-Tie

 Children who grow up without treatment for tongue tie often experience a range of oral myofunctional signs and symptoms including:

  • Inability to poke tongue past the lips
  • The tongue can’t be moved sideways to the corners the mouth
  • Tongue tip may appear squared, notched, or heart shaped
  • Difficulty speaking clearly
  • Pain in neck, head, jaw
  • Severe headaches
  • Oral health issues such as tooth decay and gum disease
  • Overbite
  • Crowded teeth
  • Sleep apnea

Problems for Infants with Tongue-Tie

A baby with tongue tie may have difficulties breast or bottle feeding. This can lead to mothers having sore or damaged nipples and the baby may not be getting enough milk or formula to gain weight. Tongue tie in babies can be hard to diagnose as there could be other factors causing feeding issues, therefore it’s important to see a medical professional at the first sign of problems.

If left untreated, tongue tie will continue to cause nursing difficulties, weak lips, mouth breathing, and dysfunctional swallows which impair dental-facial development. This creates complications for overall health. When a tongue tie is detected and treated early with Myofunctional therapy, normal dental-facial development can resume.

So How Does Tongue-Tie Happen in Adults?

 There are two primary causes of tongue tie. Either the frenum (extra tissue under the tongue) is too short and tight, or it didn’t move back down the tongue during development. The lingual frenulum is supposed to separate before birth. Sadly, some babies are born with it still remaining and suffer throughout adulthood. Some believe that tongue tie could also be inherited.

Give Your Tongue a Test

If you have a serious concern regarding tongue tie, we recommend you see a professional as soon as possible. If you’re just curious, here are a few self-tests you can try:

  • Can you make a popping sound when you click your tongue? Someone with tongue tie cannot click.
  • Leaving a little space between your upper and lower teeth, can you make your tongue touch the floor and ceiling of your mouth? Not being able to do so suggests tongue tie.
  • Do you have lines and wrinkles around your mouth and/or chin when you swallow? If yes, that suggests you have a tongue restriction associated with a dysfunctional swallow.

The best way to confirm tongue tie is to consult a professional first. The next step may be to meet with one of our dentists who are trained in oral-facial myofunctional therapy, which is physical therapy that uses different exercises to recalibrate the tongue and swallowing muscles in the mouth.

Tongue-Tie is Treatable at Any Age

While the ideal time to treat someone with tongue tie is at the earliest age possible, it’s never too late. In many cases, all that’s required to release the tie is a minor surgical procedure called a lingual frenectomy. A lingual frenectomy is usually completed by a dentist or oral surgeon using a laser or scalpel.


Contact us at our Pittsford, NY office today at (585) 348-2575 to learn more about tongue tie and the various treatments we offer, or schedule a consultation. Our staff is happy to answer any questions you have. Pittsford Dental Excellence Center provides total oral healthcare to patients in Fairport, Pittsford, and Rochester, NY.

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