Underneath your tongue, there’s a piece of flesh that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. It’s called the lingual frenulum. As with many parts of the body, the lingual frenulum varies in size and shape between individuals.
Usually, this tissue is thin, attaching to the tongue at about its midpoint or lower. The frenulum doesn’t restrict the tongue’s mobility in these cases. However, some people have thicker frenulums or the attachment point is closer to the tongue’s tip. It’s a condition called a tongue-tie.
For babies, this could complicate feeding when latching on to their mother’s breast or to the nipple on a baby bottle, but only for some. Others can function through a tongue-tie and it remains into adulthood.
At Lee Dental in Frisco, Texas, we routinely deal with tongue-ties in patients of all ages. Could you have a tongue-tie? Let’s look at the condition and its symptoms to help you determine if you have adult tongue-tie.
Signs and symptoms of a tongue-tie
If you’ve had a mild case of a tongue-tie, you’ve likely adapted to it. Many people in similar circumstances might not even know they have the condition. The frequency of anterior tongue ties is estimated to range between 4-10% in the general population and up to 32.5% of infants having posterior tongue ties according to Dr Richard Baxter.
When a tongue-tie limits the amount you can move your tongue, it can create problems that make it more difficult to:
- Eat and drink
You might not recognize these as problems if you’ve lived with them all your life. As well as visually checking the status of your frenulum, you can get clues about your own tongue-tie by checking these points:
- When you stick your tongue forward, the tip appears heart-shaped
- You can’t stick your tongue out past your front teeth
- You have trouble touching your upper front teeth with your tongue with your mouth wide open
- Side-to-side tongue movement is limited
As you get older, the limitations of a tongue-tie could create complications.
Side effects of an adult tongue-tie
Your tongue plays a role in the movement of food and food debris around your mouth. This can be compromised by the movement limitations of a tongue-tie. Inefficient cleaning of your mouth could give rise to tooth decay and gum disease.
Tongue thrust occurs when your tongue chronically pushes against your bottom front teeth. Common signs of tongue thrust resulting from a tongue-tie include gaps between lower teeth, an open bite or other unusual alignment issues.
The adaptations your body makes to cope with a tongue-tie could affect the mechanics of jaw movement. An inflammatory condition of the temporomandibular joints can cause pain and popping as you move your jaw. Chronic compensation of a tongue tie can lead to muscle tension in the neck, shoulders and back.
Speech impediments caused by a tongue-tie make certain letters difficult to form. The most common problem letters are:
Obstructive sleep apnea is another problem for which a tongue-tie increases the risk. The collapse of the soft palate at the back of the mouth that causes sleep apnea is more likely to occur in patients with a tongue-tie. A restricted tongue often sits low in the mouth which can fall into a patient's airway and block airflow while laying down.
Contact us at Lee Dental to learn more about your tongue-tie condition and how we can help. Book your visit by phone or online today.