When we think about oral health and orthodontic concerns, we often picture braces, regular dental check-ups, and good oral hygiene practices. However, there’s an often-overlooked factor that can significantly impact both dental health and orthodontic development – tongue tie.
Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition where the strip of skin beneath the tongue (the lingual frenulum) is shorter than usual, restricting the tongue’s range of motion. While it may seem unrelated to dental health and orthodontic concerns, the truth is that tongue tie can play a substantial role in these areas.
In this blogpost, we will explore the role of tongue tie in dental health and orthodontic concerns across different age groups.
The Basics of Tongue Tie
Before delving into its effects on oral health and orthodontics, let’s understand what tongue tie entails:
Breastfeeding Issues: In infants, tongue tie can make latching onto the breast and breastfeeding challenging. This can lead to feeding difficulties, affecting the baby’s nutrition and growth.
Speech Development: As children grow, an untreated tongue tie can hinder proper speech development. Articulating certain sounds becomes challenging, potentially leading to speech impediments.
Orthodontic Implications: Tongue tie can affect the resting posture of the tongue, which plays a role in the alignment of teeth and jaw development. This is where its link to orthodontic concerns becomes evident.
The Role of Tongue Tie in Orthodontic Concerns
Malocclusion (Bad Bite)
Malocclusion refers to an improper alignment of the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed. It can manifest as an overbite (upper teeth protrude over the lower), an underbite (lower teeth protrude over the upper), or a crossbite (some upper teeth sit inside the lower teeth).
Tongue tie can contribute to malocclusion in several ways:
Mouth Breathing: Individuals with tongue tie may find it challenging to breathe through their noses, resorting to mouth breathing. This can affect the growth of the upper jaw and lead to a high, narrow palate, contributing to malocclusion.
Tongue Posture: The tongue’s resting posture plays a role in guiding the proper alignment of teeth. When the tongue is tethered due to a tongue tie, it can rest in a lower position, often against the lower teeth, which can push them forward.
Crowded teeth occur when there isn’t enough space in the mouth for teeth to align correctly. This can lead to teeth overlapping or twisting out of their ideal positions. Tongue tie can indirectly contribute to crowded teeth:
Lack of Tongue Support: The tongue is supposed to provide gentle pressure against the upper teeth, helping to maintain the arch width and preventing crowding. When the tongue’s movement is restricted by a tie, this supportive function is compromised.
An open bite is a condition where there’s a gap between the upper and lower front teeth when the back teeth are in contact. Tongue tie can contribute to an open bite:
Tongue Thrust: Individuals with tongue tie may exhibit a tongue thrusting pattern during swallowing, where the tongue pushes against the front teeth instead of the palate. Over time, this can lead to an open bite.
The Impact on Oral Health
When the tongue is tied, it may rub against the lower front teeth during speech or movement. This friction can lead to gum recession, exposing the sensitive tooth roots and increasing the risk of cavities and tooth sensitivity.
Poor Oral Hygiene
In children and adults with untreated tongue tie, reaching certain areas of the mouth for proper oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing, can be challenging. This can result in plaque buildup, gum disease, and tooth decay.
Recognizing the role of tongue tie in dental health and orthodontic concerns underscores the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. The good news is that tongue tie can be effectively treated through a procedure known as frenectomy. This involves cutting or releasing the tight lingual frenulum, allowing for improved tongue mobility.
Frenectomies can be performed using traditional scissors, scalpel, or laser technology. Laser frenectomy, in particular, offers several advantages, including minimal discomfort, quicker healing, and reduced risk of infection.
Seeking Professional Help
Understanding the role of tongue tie in dental health and orthodontic concerns is crucial for early intervention and optimal oral health. If you suspect that you or your child may have a tongue tie, seeking consultation with a pediatric dentist or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a proactive step.
At Upbeat Pediatric Dentistry’s Tongue Tie Institute, we specialize in providing comprehensive care for children, including the diagnosis and treatment of tongue tie. Our experienced team is dedicated to promoting excellent oral health and proper orthodontic development in children of all ages.
Schedule an appointment with us today to address any concerns and ensure a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime. Don’t underestimate the role of tongue tie – it’s a critical factor in your child’s oral health journey.