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Speech Development and Tongue Tie: Connecting the Dots

If you’re the parent of a young child, you have no doubt been eagerly awaiting the day when they begin to talk. But what happens if that eagerly anticipated day seems to take longer than it should – and you start to worry that your child may be experiencing speech and language delays? If so, you’re not alone; an estimated 7-8 percent of children face this situation. One potential contributing factor to speech and language delays is an oral anomaly known as “tongue tie.”

Many parents are unfamiliar with the concept of tongue tie and may not be aware of the potential impact it could have on their child’s speech development. To help you understand the correlation between tongue tie and speech development, as well as to provide suggestions for physical therapy, speech therapy, and medical treatment, this article will delve deeper into the subject.

Understanding Tongue Tie and Its Potential Effects

Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition that occurs when the frenulum – the small band of tissue that connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth – is too short and/or tight. This limits the range of motion of the tip of the tongue, which can cause feeding difficulties, problems with articulation, and speech and language delays, as well as other potential health issues.

As an infant, a short or tight frenulum can impact the baby’s ability to breastfeed, as well as bottle feeding. Mothers with infants experiencing this issue often report that their baby has difficulty creating a seal while breastfeeding, or that they seem to have difficulty latching onto the nipple. In cases of more severe tongue tie, the infant may have trouble properly transferring food from the mouth to the throat.

As the infant grows into a toddler and begins to acquire language, parents may notice that they have trouble pronouncing sounds. A child with tongue tie may have difficulty producing sounds like “l”, “r”, “s”, and “sh”. They might also exhibit situations of “gagging,” jaw tension, or a “choking” sound. If the tongue tie is not corrected, these issues can have negative effects on the child’s ability to develop fluent speech.

Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Treatment Options for Tongue Tie

When you suspect that your child may be experiencing tongue tie, it’s best to seek guidance from your pediatrician or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, pediatric otolaryngologist, or pediatric dentist. A physical or speech therapist may also help evaluate the potential effects of tongue tie on speech and language and provide treatment if necessary.

A physical therapist may be able to help alleviate any jaw tension or tightness in the muscles surrounding the tongue. Additionally, they might be able to help stretch the tongue muscles, thereby increasing the tongue’s range of motion and decreasing symptoms associated with tongue tie.

In some cases of tongue tie, a pediatric dentist or an oral surgeon may recommend a procedure called a “frenectomy.” This is a simple surgical procedure, where the frenulum is snipped to allow greater range of motion for the tongue. After the procedure, a physical or speech therapist can provide exercises to help the child gradually regain the full range of motion of the tongue.

A speech therapist can also provide exercises that focus on improving articulation and sound production. Additionally, they might provide guidance to parents on techniques to incorporate into their daily routines to support their child’s speech and language development.

Conclusion

As a parent learns about tongue tie and its potential effects on their child’s speech and language development, they may feel a bit overwhelmed. But it’s important to remember one thing: while tongue tie can certainly pose some challenges for a child, there are a wide variety of physical therapy, speech therapy, and medical treatment options available that can help a child achieve their full language and articulation potential. It’s crucial to stay on top of the issue and seek guidance from healthcare providers when necessary. With early intervention and a bit of guidance, children with tongue tie can experience significant improvements in their speech and language development.