Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 21-06-2023
Tongue tie, which is also technically referred to as ankyloglossia, is an oral condition that occurs commonly in babies and children, and is generally detected relatively soon after birth.
With tongue tie, the tiny fold of tissue that connects the tongue and floor of the mouth (also referred to as the frenulum) is too short or too tight compared to that of a normal frenulum. Such a condition places limitations or restrictions on the tongue’s range of motion. Still, more rarely, the frenulum may not even be detectable. In this case, the tongue will be completely fused to the floor of the mouth.
With that being said, since tongue tie limits the motion of the tongue, many parents wonder if this condition can affect their child’s speech development. Thus, in this article, we will go over how tongue tie may affect a child’s overall development, and we will discuss whether tongue tie can affect the development of a child’s speech, as well.
How a Tongue Tie Condition Affects a Child’s Overall Development
It’s important to first acknowledge that with most cases of tongue tie, a child’s overall development will fortunately not be considerably or negatively impacted. In fact, many adults who experienced a tongue tie ailment as children have reportedly never faced any extreme challenges with feeding as babies. Additionally, they have never required any speech therapy during their adolescence.
However, a child’s development may be negatively impacted by certain cases of tongue tie, and there are still particular difficulties that your child may face with a tongue tie condition. These difficulties include challenges with feeding, oral hygiene care, sleeping, and articulating speech.
In fact, research has indicated that, in addition to possible breastfeeding difficulties and sleep problems, a tongue tie issue may also possibly contribute to mouth breathing, reflux, and a generally forward posture (although the exact relationship between this condition and tongue tie is not currently fully understood).
How a Tongue Tie Condition Affects a Child’s Speech Development
Fortunately, medical professionals generally seem to agree that a tongue tie condition cannot impact a child’s speech development or their ability to learn or comprehend language.
In other words, a child will still be able to understand speech and communication. Thus, they can effectively express their needs, wants, and ideas to their parents or caregivers, whether they have a tongue tie condition or not. Moreover, if a child happens to be a late talker, tongue tie is not considered to be a fair culprit in such cases.
However, with that being said, several studies suggest that the restricted range of lingual motion inherent in a tongue tie condition can present issues with speech articulation in children.
As a child with tongue tie tries to mimic certain sounds, for example, they may face difficulties such as with pronouncing “t”, “d”, “l”, and “r”, as they may struggle with putting the tongue to the lips and sticking out the tongue completely.
Luckily for children with tongue tie, correcting the condition (provided that this is the recommended route) will enable the child to experience the complete range of tongue movements and will, therefore, not prevent them from mimicking every word and sound necessary for proper speech and articulation.
How is tongue tie corrected in children?
With many cases of tongue tie, a simple “watch and wait” approach is often recommended by several professionals, along with applying other solutions such as tongue stretching exercises and speech therapy.
However, if at any point it becomes more certain that a surgical procedure is necessary to correct a child’s tongue tie condition, there are two main treatment options that are commonly offered.
The first is a frenotomy, which is most commonly performed for mild to moderate cases of tongue tie. With this approach, the frenulum is clipped with either surgical scissors or a laser to release the tongue from the floor of the mouth.
The second option is a frenuloplasty, which is a more complex surgical procedure that is typically performed for more severe cases of tongue tie. This approach involves a total surgical reconstruction of the frenulum.
Fortunately, the good news is that tongue tie release surgery has an excellent success rate. In fact, a study from 2018 published by the International Journal of Clinical Pediatrics demonstrated that five children with a tight or restricted frenulum experienced improved tongue mobility following tongue tie release surgery, ultimately improving their feeding and speech skills.
While it is still debated whether tongue tie surgery is the smartest course of action for every case of tongue tie that presents limitations, a thorough assessment by a professional remains the best way to determine whether a child should undergo this procedure.
Reach Out to Our Team at Milltown Dental Today
If you believe that your child may be dealing with a tongue tie problem, or you suspect that they may need tongue tie surgery, you should consult with a professional, such as our paediatric dentists in Milton, as soon as possible.