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Adult Tongue Tie: Understanding the Impact and Treatment

An increasing number of adults are being diagnosed with tongue tie, a condition that can impact their oral health and general well-being. Although typically associated with infants, tongue tie can persist and have a long-term impact on the ability to speak and swallow, as well as contribute to other health issues. This condition is not just reserved for the young, and many adults may require therapy to help improve symptoms.

What is Tongue Tie?

Tongue tie (or ankyloglossia) is a congenital condition that occurs when the strip of membrane that secures the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short or tight. This can restrict the movement of the tongue, and in severe cases, can limit its range of motion. This condition is most commonly diagnosed and treated in infants, but it can persist into adulthood. In both cases, it can impact the person’s ability to talk, eat, and swallow, as well as put them at greater risk for periodontal disease, sleep apnea, and other related health concerns.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of tongue tie is not known, although it appears to be related to genetics. If someone in the family has had a tongue tie, it is more likely that a child may also have the same condition. Other potential risk factors for developing a tongue tie as a child or an adult include pre-term birth, a low weight at birth, or the presence of a cleft lip or palate.

Symptoms

The symptoms of tongue tie can vary greatly depending on the severity of the condition and the stage of a person’s life. In infants, some of the most common symptoms of tongue tie include difficulty latching while breastfeeding, rapid weight loss, and the inability to explore the mouth with the tongue. As children get older, and into adulthood, symptoms can include difficulty speaking or developing certain oral skills, gum recession, and snoring.

Treatment

When it comes to treating tongue ties, it is essential to remember that not everyone will require treatment. In some cases, if an individual is not experiencing any symptoms, and if the tie is not impacting their oral health, a physician may advise against taking any action. If treatment is necessary, the two most common therapies are frenotomy and myofunctional therapy. A frenotomy, also known as a scissors or laser frenectomy, involves the cutting of the membrane that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth in order to improve movement. Myofunctional therapy is a type of specialized exercise program that is designed to strengthen the tongue and its related muscles. For individuals with more severe tongue ties, a combination of both treatment options may be recommended.

Long-Term Implications

Although there are relatively few studies on the long-term impact of tongue tie in adults, there is some evidence to suggest that it can contribute to poor oral health. For example, studies have shown a link between a tight lingual frenulum and increased rates of gum recession, periodontal disease, and cavities. Additionally, some people with a tongue tie may be at a higher risk for developing sleep apnea.

Conclusion

An increasing number of adults are being diagnosed with the condition, tongue tie. In adults, this condition can impact the ability to speak, eat, and swallow, as well as have long-term implications for oral health and sleep apnea. Although not all adults with tongue tie will require treatment, it is important to understand the potential risks and seek medical advice if symptoms are present.