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Orthodontic Considerations for Tongue-Tied Individuals

Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a common condition where the band of tissue (frenulum) beneath the tongue is short or overly tight, affecting the tongue’s range of motion. It is present at birth and can hinder many functions, including breastfeeding, speech, feeding, swallowing, and even oral hygiene. Tongue-tie has quickly become a major topic of discussion, and as a result, many individuals are seeking professional help to understand their options and the orthodontic considerations for improvement of their oral function as it pertains to treatment.

Causes and Diagnosis

Tongue-tie is a congenital defect and is often carried over through chromosomes in families. Some children have a heritage from their parents that may lead to their children having a higher risk factor for the condition. It’s rarely found in an older adult population although some cases do present due to an accident or injury.

Tongue-tie is typically diagnosed by pediatricians or general practitioners during doctors visits. The visual diagnosis is often the most utilized method and many times the condition is treated when children are still quite young. It can be a difficult condition to diagnose in children where it may not be readily apparent, however support groups, orthodontists, speech therapists and medical professionals are working to increase awareness and early detection.

Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of the condition, there are several treatment options that can be explored. In infants and very young children, the most recommended option for most cases would be a minor medical procedure called a frenectomy. This process involves surgically removing some of the tissue binding the tongue to back of the mouth. The surgery is quite fast and low-impact, though it will mean some time for recovery. Speech therapists, myofunctional therapy, and multidisciplinary teams can also be helpful.

Once individuals reach adolescence and adulthood, there are still options available. Tissue modification can still be done, although more invasive than in children. Myofunctional exercises can also be of help, as can surgically modifying the tissue through a procedure called a labioglossulectomy. Individualized treatment can be helpful for older individuals who have significantly altered speech and difficulty swallowing.

Orthodontic Considerations

Orthodontic treatment can also be utilized for those with tongue-tie to help improve oral function. The condition can affect the alignment and rotation of the teeth, the spacing of the jaw, and bone structure. It also results in a lack of tongue space, causing problems with swallowing and airway clearance, and could even result in obstructive sleep apnea. Orthodontic intervention can help to reprogram the tongue muscles and allow for healing. Braces or Invisalign can be options, though in many cases additional treatment is needed.

Additionally, orthodontic intervention can help to reduce the effect of tongue-tie on feeding, speech, and biting. Myofunctional exercises can help to achieve mouth posture related to optimal breathing, swallowing, and biting. Along with tongue muscle exercises to reprogram the muscles, these exercises can help improve the orthodontic results and optimally balance the mouth posture in the long-run.


Tongue-tie is a condition that can greatly affect an individual’s daily life, as well as their oral health. Recognizing and diagnosing the condition early on is key to making sure proper interventions and treatments are implemented. Orthodontic treatment can help to reduce the effects of tongue-tie and improve oral function. It can also be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as speech therapy and myofunctional exercises, to achieve the best results. Take the time to understand the orthodontic considerations when it comes to tongue-tie, and visit a dental professional who is experienced in treating the condition for the best results.