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Untangling the Mystery of Tongue Ties: Understanding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Rooted Family Team
September 27, 2023

What is a Tongue Tie?

Tongue ties, although relatively common, often go undiagnosed or overlooked, leaving individuals and parents perplexed by various speech and feeding difficulties. The condition, known medically as ankyloglossia, occurs when the thin strip of tissue (lingual frenulum) connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth is unusually tight or short. In this blog post, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options for tongue ties, shedding light on this often misunderstood and sometimes even undiagnosed condition.

Understanding Tongue Ties: 

A tongue tie can manifest in different degrees of severity, ranging from mild restrictions to more significant impairments. Infants with tongue ties may experience difficulties with breastfeeding, as the limited range of tongue movement can hinder their ability to latch properly. It can also contribute to symptoms of reflux. Older children and adults may struggle with speech articulation, dental issues, swallowing difficulties, the ability to manipulate food safely, and even chronic neck and jaw pain. Identifying the presence of a tongue tie is crucial to addressing these challenges effectively.

The Importance of Early Intervention:

If you are experiencing pain with breastfeeding or your baby is having trouble latching or getting enough breastmilk, this is a sign that something is not working properly. Settling for “less than optimal” feeding technique can lead to maternal pain, blocked ducts, and mastitis, which if left untreated can progress into more serious conditions for mom and child.

Recognizing Symptoms:

Symptoms in infants can include: poor and/or shallow latch, clicking and/or snapping sounds while feeding, inefficient emptying of the breast, maternal experience of cracked or bruised nipples, blocked ducts or mastitis. 

It's important to note that oral ties can impact various aspects of life, not just during infancy. For instance, both breast and bottle feeding can be affected by oral ties as your baby gets older. Additionally, issues such as sleeping with an open mouth, sleep apnea, speech difficulties, neck pain, headaches/migraines, behaviour issues and challenges in manipulating food in the mouth can be linked to oral ties as children get older.

If you have an older child with food-related challenges or other issues, we recommend considering consultation with an Pediatric Occupational Therapist. They can help assess if oral ties may be a contributing factor and provide appropriate guidance and support.

Treatment Options and Support:

While at Rooted Family Wellness Centre we don’t offer surgical tongue tie releases, we do have a wide range of services that are here to support you and your baby and help you become more comfortable and functional with the tie you have. Some of these options include:

Lactation Consultants: Our lactation consultants can assess the range of motion of the tongue and can tell you if they suspect a tongue tie. Once a tongue tie is suspected, we can give techniques to make your breastfeeding experience more comfortable and optimise the amount of milk your baby is able to transfer. If these techniques do not resolve your comfort and baby’s capacity to breastfeed effectively, we can refer you to a specialist for a tongue tie removal.   

Infant Feeding Support Physiotherapy: In physiotherapy we can’t diagnose a tie, but we can screen for proper function while feeding. If a tongue tie is suspected, we can refer you to a medical professional that can provide the proper diagnosis and treatment options such as:

  • We can optimize the function of feeding through ensuring good range of motion of neck and jaw to allow wide jaw opening and a deep latch, and to facilitate/ train tongue mobility. Sometimes even working on positioning and change of techniques can be helpful as well. 
  • If the baby has had a tie revision, we can work to provide body work and stretching to improve range of motion and function. We essentially help baby to learn how to use their new found increased range of motion. 

Pediatric Occupational Therapy: In occupational therapy, we cannot diagnose a tie, but we can screen for evidence of restriction, through oral exam, parent report, and observation of function, to determine the influence on a child’s feeding. We can explore strategies to ensure safe, comfortable eating with available lip and tongue range of motion. 

Massage Therapy and CranioSacral Therapy: In massage therapy and craniosacral therapy, our goal is not to diagnose or perform "clip" procedures for oral ties. Similar to physiotherapy, we can refer you to a medical professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis and necessary procedures if required. Our role is to:

  • Assist by using a series of gentle techniques that help the body function more effectively within its current limits, including addressing issues related to oral ties. We also work both before and after a tie release procedure to optimise the body's function as it adapts to its newfound mobility.
  • Improve overall bodily function through techniques that reduce restriction, alleviate tension, and enhance mobility. 

Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic care focuses on optimising spinal and cranial alignment, which can influence oral function and movement. Our approach involves gentle adjustments and manual therapies to enhance overall musculoskeletal function, especially in the neck, jaw, and cranial regions. By promoting proper alignment and mobility, we aim to support optimal feeding mechanics and tongue mobility in infants with tongue ties. 

Osteopathy: In osteopathy, we can evaluate the musculoskeletal system, including the spine, skull, and jaw, to identify any restrictions or imbalances that may contribute to feeding difficulties associated with tongue ties. Through gentle, hands-on techniques, osteopathic care aims to restore proper alignment and mobility in the body, which can have a positive impact on oral function and tongue mobility. Osteopathic treatments can help alleviate tension and restrictions in the muscles and connective tissues, allowing for improved feeding mechanics and comfort for both the baby and the parent.

We are here to support you in your journey! Please book with one of our practitioners or a discovery call to learn more about your options.

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