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Tongue Tie

What is a tongue tie?

Being tongue tied isn’t just a figure of speech. It’s a very real medical condition that can affect oral and facial development, and have a range of other serious health consequences.

We all have a lingual frenulum (or frenum) under our tongue. If you lift your tongue and look in the mirror, you’ll see it. The frenum is the tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In some people, it’s tighter or thicker than it should be, and this can physically restrict the movement of the tongue.

A tongue tie can also be referred to as Ankyloglossia or Tethered Oral Tissue (TOT).

Why does a tongue tie matter?

The tongue should rest on the top of the mouth, filling up the entire palate from front to back. When the tongue is resting in the correct position, it shapes the maxilla (upper jaw) and guides the growth of the face. The tongue also provides an internal support system for the upper jaw.

     But if a person is tongue tied, their tongue may not be able reach the top of the mouth because it’s physically restricted. This causes the palate to develop smaller and narrower, and the teeth to grow in crooked. Also, the mandible (lower jaw) is often smaller and set back, and the airway is restricted.

     Because of this, children who grow into adults without having their tongue tie treated often experience a range of oral myofunctional symptoms including:

  • Speech issues

  • Mouth breathing

  • Feeding and swallowing issues

  • Jaw pain, clenching, and grinding

  • Headaches

  • Head, neck, and shoulder tension

  • Forward head posture

  • Snoringsleep disordered breathing, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), and sleep apnea

  • Increased risk of cavities and gum disease

  • Slower orthodontic treatment

  • Orthodontic relapse

What causes a tongue tie?

Recent research is showing that tongue ties are linked to a mutation in the MTHFR gene. The science behind this is quite complicated but basically, what’s happening is that a specific gene isn’t quite working as it should. In this case, the mutation involves a process known as “methylation”, which affects the body’s ability to deal with folate – an important element in prenatal nutrition. Tongue ties are just one of many conditions caused by this mutation.

Because tongue tie is linked to a genetic cause, it’s hereditary, and one or both parents can also be affected. Often parents will report experiencing the symptoms typically seen in the adult population.

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