Speech and Dental Health: 5 Risks of an Untreated Tongue-Tie

A tongue-tie can affect speech.

What To Know About Tongue-Ties

Did you know that up to 11% of newborns have a tongue-tie? This condition is considered very common among children, yet many parents aren’t aware of the potential complications of leaving this condition untreated. This condition can impact your child’s diet, oral and orthodontic health, and social life. 

Fortunately, there are ways to effectively treat this condition, such as a laser frenectomy (which we will cover below). But is treatment really necessary in every case? What happens if you leave it as is? Here is what you need to know about this common yet often misunderstood condition.

What is a tongue-tie?

Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition that occurs when the frenulum—or the tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth—is too short, restricting the tongue’s range of motion. 

Speech difficulty is typically the most prevalent issue with this condition, but it can also lead to various other oral, physical, and mental health concerns.

How is a tongue-tie treated?

The traditional way to fix a tongue-tie is with a treatment known as a frenectomy, in which a dentist, oral surgeon, or ENT surgically modifies the frenulum to relieve the tightness and allow for a full range of motion. 

Innovations in laser dentistry now allow for a laser frenectomy, which makes this process faster, easier, more comfortable, and more effective than ever before.

5 Notable Risks of Leaving a Tongue-Tie Untreated

It may seem like your child’s tongue-tie is not too much of a hindrance and that a surgical treatment to fix it is unnecessary. However, the extent of the impact this condition can have on their life may surprise you. 

Consider these 5 major risks of leaving a tongue-tie untreated:

1. Speech Impediments

The tongue is involved in the creation of various sounds and blends, especially the following: 

  • /l/
  • /r/
  • /t/ 
  • /d/ 
  • /n/
  • /th/ 
  • /sh/
  • /z/

When the tongue’s movement is restricted, so is your child’s ability to enunciate and communicate properly.

2. Dental Health Challenges

Tongue-tie can also create some significant issues with oral health. Because a tongue-tie significantly limits the tongue’s range of motion, it can make it difficult for your child (and you, for that matter) to remove food debris from that area during your child’s oral hygiene routine. 

That food debris can then become food for oral bacteria, leading to plaque and tartar formation, gum inflammation, and tooth decay. 

The positioning of the tongue can be different for those with a tongue-tie as well. This can alter the development of the bottom front teeth, leading to a gap between the two. Uneven spacing in the mouth opens the door for a variety of future oral health and orthodontic issues.

3. Eating Difficulties

Tongue-tie can also contribute to eating difficulties that begin in infancy and can continue into adulthood. A baby with tongue-tie, for example, may have difficulty nursing, which can result in a reluctance to do so. This can contribute to poor weight gain and digestive distress. 

These difficulties can then carry over to when the baby becomes old enough to eat solid foods, as it can be hard for them to perform the tongue and mouth functions required to chew food well and swallow it properly. The child may suffer from regular gagging, choking, coughing, or vomiting and ultimately, the development of picky eating habits.  

4. Impacts on Social Interactions

Not only can a tongue-tie make it difficult for a child to communicate with others, but it can also serve to alienate them from their peers by making them sound and feel different. This can be exacerbated in social eating situations where the child with a tongue-tie feels self-conscious about their different eating habits and requirements.

5. Orthodontic Problems

The altered tongue positioning, muscle development, and jaw movement associated with a tongue-tie can lead to improper orthodontic development. This can result in malocclusion that requires orthodontic treatment at some point to fix. 

These issues can exacerbate the impact that this condition has on the life of a child while making it even more costly for their parents.

What To Do if You Suspect Your Child Has a Tongue-Tie

If you believe your child may have a tongue-tie, it’s important to speak with a trusted pediatric dental professional as soon as possible about treatment. The earlier you address this condition, the more easily you can reduce its impact on your child’s life.

Looking for a painless dentist in Salem, Oregon?

If you are searching for a gentle and comforting dentist in Oregon to care for your child’s oral health, look no further than Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry. Our experienced team can evaluate your child’s mouth and offer treatment recommendations for conditions like tongue-tie, including advanced laser dentistry. To learn more about our comprehensive services in Salem, contact us today.