What is a Tongue Tie?

Remember the old grade school song "the head bone's connected to the...neck bone, the neck bone's connected to the...."  Well, our bodies truly are connected from our head to our toes.  Have you ever opened your mouth and looked underneath your tongue?  Our tongue is an organ that has several connecting points to the rest of the body.  If they are too tightly connected, our upper and lower jaws can be underdeveloped.  A tongue that is restricted can lead to open mouth breathing, snoring, clenching, grinding, digestive issues as well as tension and discomfort. 

The frenum attachment underneath the tongue is something that can often be seen.  When this frenum is attached too tightly, it can restrict the tongue from moving at it was intended.  The portion we often see is only one small connecting part from the tongue.  When the tongue cannot fully lift, it can cause many concerns.  Some of these concerns are easy to identify and others can be less obvious. Sometimes we live with discomfort because it is what we feel is normal to us, but in reality there could be a root cause creating tension and pain.  Other times there may not be pain and tension, rather an incorrect thrusting action of the muscles in the tongue causing the dental crowding, crossbites, open bites, swallow concerns, as well as acid reflux and digestive issues. This fascinating organ gets very little respect within some of the medical community likely because the function is not fully understood.  Our tongue has several areas of connection and these points connect our neck, jaws, and base of the skull. When a tongue is anchored too tightly there can be a constant game of tug of war.  This continual pulling can wreck havoc on the muscles it attaches to creating shoulder and neck tension, headaches, and jaw pain.  A tongue tie is often associated with speech concerns.  While this can certainly be a symptom, it is something that is not always a factor.

Evaluating for a tongue tie is not as simple as looking for a piece of tight tissue.  Because the head and neck are specialized areas within the body, many physicians and even untrained dentists will likely be unable to determine if the symptoms you are having could be contributed by a tongue tie.  Those who have studied Oral Myofunctional Disorders and practice Oral Myofunctional Therapy will be the most comprehensive in developing a plan to evaluate and help correct function.  An Oral Myofunctional therapist (often referred to as an Orofacial Myologist) will also be able to help guide you to finding a provider that can release a tongue tie.  

 

When there is a restriction within the tongue, there are often areas of tension beyond the tongue that may also need to be addressed to relieve tightness throughout the body.  Oral Myofunctional Therapy is crucial to those that have a tongue tie present.  When a person has learned to run a three legged race for many years, it takes time to strengthen the muscles within the mouth and tongue in order for the tongue to learn to function as it is intended. 

A tongue tie can be released using various techniques and tools.  Finding the right provider and technique for a tongue tie release procedure can be tricky.  As a therapist, I help navigate to help you find the various providers that may be needed to get full benefit of a release procedure.  Contact us today for a free screening and to see if a tongue tie could be contributing to symptoms you are experiencing.

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