Tongue ties might seem like a minor issue in babies and children, but they can cause serious complications later on down the road. They’re actually quite common — and often get overlooked, even into adulthood.
Medically known as ankyloglossia, this condition is caused by an unusually tight or short band of tissue connecting the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. When this band, also called the lingual frenulum, is short or tight, it prevents the tongue from moving freely. It’s usually present at birth but may not be noticed until after age 2 or 3.
The most obvious symptom of a tongue tie is difficulty with breastfeeding. The baby will have trouble latching on properly because the tongue isn’t free enough to reach the breast.
Some research suggests that 5 percent of people are born with a tongue tie.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends checking for tongue ties during well-child visits starting at birth. If a baby is diagnosed with a tongue tie, he or she should receive treatment within the first few days of life. But tongue ties are often missed. And while kids will grow out of the tongue tie naturally, it can still present challenges throughout childhood and into adulthood if it is not corrected. For example, a tongue tie can restrict the flow of saliva into the mouth, causing dryness and irritation. These conditions can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and even cavities.
The Symptoms of a Tongue Tie
Fact: Tongue ties are also more common in men than women, according to MayoClinic.org.
If you notice any symptoms of a tongue tie, talk to your doctor right away. He or she can perform a simple examination to determine if there’s anything to be concerned about.
Some symptoms to look out for in adults include:
- Difficulty pronouncing certain words and sounds
- Difficulty moving the tongue toward the roof of their mouth or from side to side
- Difficulty sticking their tongue out
- A feeling of tightness under the tongue
- Difficulty licking the lips or swallow
- Difficulty kissing
- Food aversions
- Problems chewing and swallowing
How Does a Tongue Tie Contribute to Tooth Decay?
When food gets stuck between the teeth, bacteria start growing. The more food particles there are, the greater the chance of developing plaque. Plaque forms a sticky film over your teeth, which then hardens into tartar. Tartar causes tooth decay because it’s acidic and eats away at the enamel covering your teeth.
Your tongue works to naturally get rid of food debris. If your tongue is restricted due to a tongue tie, however, it may not be able to do its job as effectively. As a result, food particles stay longer than they would if the tongue was free to move around. This means that more tartar builds up, leading to more tooth decay.
The Signs of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay often starts small. You might notice a white spot on your or your child’s tooth, but don’t worry about it yet. It’s normal for some areas of your teeth to have spots where minerals are missing. But if these spots become larger and darker or hurt, you need to make an appointment with your dentist right away to assess your oral health.
If you suspect that you have tooth decay, here are some signs to look for :
- White spots on your teeth
- Your teeth feel sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks
- Bad breath
- Pain when chewing
- Trouble eating certain types of food]
- Open wounds or bumps on your gums
What Can You Do About a Tongue Tie?
If you suspect that you have a tongue tie, talk to your doctor about how best to treat it. We may recommend surgery to release the tongue tie. This simple procedure is known as a frenectomy. This procedure is often done in children, but more and more adults are undergoing the treatment now.
After having the procedure, you may notice your speech and eating issues improve. If not, speech therapy and myofunctional therapy may also be of significant benefit.
If you have a tongue tie, make sure to brush and floss regularly. Also, try to avoid foods that stick to your teeth, such as candy, fruit snacks or popcorn.
If you notice any signs of tooth decay, contact your dentist right away. He or she will be able to help you prevent further damage by removing the tartar buildup. He or she may also recommend using fluoride treatments to strengthen your teeth.
Call us now to schedule an appointment to talk about your oral health.