What Medical Professionals Treat Tongue Tie?

A child is being examined by a dentist.

Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition that restricts the movement of the tongue because of a short or tight band of tissue under the tongue. This band, known as the lingual frenulum, usually allows the tongue to have a full range of movement, but if it is thickened, tight, or attaches to the tongue too far forward, the tongue can’t move properly. 

Tongue tie severity and location can vary, and leads to a range of symptoms and related concerns. Timely identification and treatment of tongue tie helps prevent potential issues, however.  

Key Takeaways

  • Multidisciplinary Approach: Treating tongue tie often involves collaboration among various medical professionals, including pediatricians, dentists, otolaryngologists (ENT specialists), lactation consultants, and speech therapists.
  • Early Identification is Crucial: Identifying tongue tie early, especially in infants, allows for timely intervention to prevent potential complications such as breastfeeding difficulties, speech delays, and dental issues.
  • Range of Treatment Options: Medical professionals may recommend various treatment options for tongue tie, including frenotomy (or frenectomy), speech therapy, myofunctional therapy, and orthodontic interventions, tailored to the individual’s needs and severity of the condition.
  • Improving Quality of Life: Effective treatment of tongue tie can significantly improve quality of life by addressing feeding difficulties, speech impediments, and oral function, promoting optimal oral health and overall well-being.
  • Holistic Assessment and Care: Medical professionals take a holistic approach to evaluate the impact of tongue tie on various aspects of health, considering factors such as feeding, speech development, oral function, and psychological well-being to provide comprehensive care.
  • Ongoing Monitoring and Support: Following treatment for tongue tie, medical professionals provide ongoing monitoring and support to ensure optimal outcomes and address any residual issues or concerns that may arise. Regular follow-up visits may be recommended to assess progress and adjust treatment as needed.

What Causes Tongue Tie?

The tightness or thickness of the lingual frenulum (tissue under the tongue) leading to tongue tie can result from genetic factors, disruptions in fetal development, variations in tissue composition, failure of normal tissue resorption, or injury during birth. While genetics may play a role, the exact cause varies from person to person.

A person is considered to have tongue tie when the tightness of the lingual frenulum restricts the normal range of motion of the tongue until various functions such as feeding, speech, and oral hygiene are impacted. The severity of tongue tie can vary. A person may have only mild limitations or may experience significantly reduced tongue function.

Types and Severities of Tongue Tie

There are different types of tongue tie, classified based on the location and how severe the frenulum attachment is. 

Anterior tongue tie is most common; the frenulum is attached close to the tip of the tongue. With a posterior tongue tie, the frenulum binds the tongue further back, making it harder to detect. When the attachment is beneath the surface of the mucous membrane, it is known as a submucosal tie; these are less visible compared to other types. A superior tongue tie occurs when the frenulum is attached to the upper surface of the tongue.

The severity of tongue tie is typically graded on a scale ranging from mild to severe, based on how significantly the oral functions, including eating and speaking are negatively affected.

Medical Professionals Treating Tongue Tie: Doctors, Specialists, Dentists – A Team Effort

Several healthcare professionals are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of tongue tie. Some may play a greater role in the diagnosis of the condition, while others may provide non-surgical treatment, including providing stretches or exercises for the tongue. Some professionals are able to offer frenectomy surgeries to treat it.

Pediatricians

Primary care physicians, especially those specializing in pediatrics, play a key role in identifying tongue tie for infants.

Lactation Consultants

Babies with tongue tie may have feeding difficulties. Lactation consultants can assist in identifying and addressing issues related to tongue ties.

Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Specialists

Ear, nose and throat specialists may be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of tongue tie, including surgery.

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs)

Speech pathologists evaluate speech and language issues related to tongue tie, providing therapeutic interventions to improve oral motor skills.

Dentists

Dentists play an important role in identifying, assessing, and treating tongue tie. They are trained to recognize oral anomalies, including variations in the lingual frenulum that may contribute to tongue tie. Dentists can assess the impact of tongue tie on oral health, and identify whether a person may have potential issues in maintaining oral hygiene because of the condition. Tongue tie is associated with an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease; a dentist can advise if this is the case. 

Some dentists may conduct frenectomies, to quickly treat the issue, or can provide a referral. They will also address any oral health concerns related to the tongue tie.

Symptoms of Tongue Tie:

There are several symptoms of tongue tie; different symptoms can be noticed at different ages. 

In infants, symptoms of tongue tie often emerge during feeding, with challenges in latching onto the breast or bottle. Babies may have trouble feeding and gaining weight. As children grow older, speech and language delays may become noticeable, as tongue tie can hinder articulation and oral motor skills. As time goes by, restricted tongue movement that leads to difficulties when licking, swallowing, and playing wind instruments becomes apparent. 

At any age, excessive snoring can also be a symptom. Oral hygiene challenges may persist, increasing the risk of dental issues like cavities and gum disease. 

A woman is holding a baby in her arms.

Dental Checkups and Ankyloglossia Identification

While dentists may not be the first professionals that come to mind for tongue ties, their critical role in identifying, assessing, and treating this condition, as well as treating dental health concerns that are linked to ankyloglossia. Dentists are a helpful partner for tongue tie concerns, having expertise in oral health concerns, including this condition, and because routine dental checkups allow them to proactively identify and address it as part of your regular dental care.

For tongue tie treatment in Hamilton, rely on Century Stone Dental at 905-545-4833, 684 Main St E, Hamilton, ON L8M 1K5.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does tongue tie affect infants?

Tongue tie can affect breastfeeding by impairing the baby’s ability to latch properly, leading to feeding difficulties, inadequate milk transfer, and maternal nipple pain or damage.

What are the signs and symptoms of tongue tie?

Signs of tongue tie in infants may include difficulty latching, poor weight gain, clicking sounds during feeding, and maternal nipple pain. In older children and adults, symptoms may include speech difficulties, oral hygiene challenges, and difficulty with certain activities involving tongue movement.

Is tongue tie treatment necessary?

Tongue tie treatment may be necessary if the condition is causing significant feeding difficulties, speech impediments, or other functional issues. However, the decision to pursue treatment should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals based on individual circumstances and symptoms.

Dr Christopher Sims
Latest posts by Dr Christopher Sims (see all)

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