If you have tongue-tie, you probably know about the effects it can have on your well-being throughout your life. Since it limits the tongue’s mobility, adults with tongue tie may feel like it impacts their daily lives, work, and even social life. Fortunately, tongue-tie is correctable with a frenectomy, which involves “clipping” the tie to free the tongue. But, are there any disadvantages of clipping tongue tie?
In this article, we’ll dive in-depth into tongue tie. First, we’ll explain how tongue tie occurs and how it can affect the mobility of your tongue. Next, we’ll discuss the treatment options, including surgery, and the advantages and disadvantages of undergoing surgery. Finally, we’ll let you know how you can make a decision that can best suit your needs.
What Is Tongue Tie?
Tongue-tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a congenital condition in which the tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short. This tissue is known as the lingual frenulum. Essentially, it is a band of tissue that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth.
There are many different types of tongue tie, including midline lingual frenulum, tip-of-the-tongue tie or anterior lingual frenulum, and sublingual/subepithelial lingual frenulum.
The vital thing to note is that with all types of tongue-tie, the short tissue that connects the tongue with the floor of the mouth restricts movement because it prevents normal anatomy from developing.
This condition affects about 3% to 5% of children and is most commonly seen in Caucasians with a family history of tongue tie. Children can be born with it, but it is more likely to develop early in the child’s life. Factors that can affect your child’s risk include pregnancy complications, premature or low birth weight, and infections such as gonorrhea, thrush, and chlamydia.
How Do You Get Tongue-Tie?
Tongue tie can develop during pregnancy when the baby’s palate and tongue begin to develop within the fetal mouth. If there isn’t enough room in the lower jaw, this can lead to a short frenulum that limits tongue movement and cause problems with teeth alignment.
The second type of tongue tie, tip-of-the-tongue tie or anterior lingual frenulum, is most commonly caused by a partial or complete cleft palate. While most cases resolve during childhood without any long-term effects, some adults may continue to have moderate to severe bite problems. These can be corrected by a frenectomy, followed by orthodontic treatment.
The third type of tongue tie, sublingual/subepithelial lingual frenulum, appears less commonly but is typically found in white adults.
However, as we’ll discuss below, tongue tie can sometimes go undiagnosed. This can lead individuals to compensate for their condition in ways that can cause problems later.
Can Tongue Tie Cause Problems in Children?
It is not uncommon for children to adapt to their tongue tie, primarily if it only affects them mildly. In fact, some children adapt so well that they might not even realize there is a problem. Unfortunately, as tongue tie becomes more severe over time, it can lead to many physical and mental issues.
Some of these problems include:
- Difficulty feeding from a bottle or a teat tube (this can cause significant issues when starting school)
- Swallowing difficulties, which can be even worse in those who have speech disorders or learning disabilities
- Tongue-tied speech and language delays that continue their entire lives, hindering their ability to communicate with others if the cause is known.
- However, it can progress into communication disorders as an adult if the cause is unknown.
- Difficulty chewing, including difficulty in positions and movements (like putting food into their mouth). If the tongue tie is very severe, it may impact the shape of a child’s mouth and lead to obstructive sleep apnea.
- Oral facial pain
- Difficulty swallowing water or soft foods (such as ice cream)
- Frequent dental issues, including dental crowding, missing teeth, and tooth decay.
The dentists at Rodeo Dental recommend that children with tongue tie see a dentist regularly to take preventive measures against oral issues.
How Do I Know If My Child Has Tongue Tie?
Parents can recognize multiple symptoms associated with tongue-tie before bringing their child to see a doctor. Some of these are:
- Frequent excessive drooling or difficulty with swallowing
- “Tongue-tied” speech, sometimes including dyslexia or language issues
- Speech sounds and language delay, even when their teeth are up to grade 3 (5-6 years old)
- Spasms and electric shock-like sensations in the neck (that may be mistaken for migraines)
- Twitching tongue or lip opening reflexes that can be painful and interfere with sleep, eating, and communication
- A mouth that is narrower than average at the sides (called a “narrow lip appearance”)
You may be wondering how to tell if your child has tongue-tie or if the symptoms and difficulties they are experiencing are something else. To know for sure, a dentist or doctor can diagnose by examining the position of your child’s frenulum and their bite. An oral surgeon or a speech pathologist specializing in tongue-tie will perform the diagnosis, especially so that they can evaluate the disadvantages of clipping tongue tie.
Symptoms Of Tongue Tie In Adults
Many people find that they cope with their tongue-tie without ever knowing they have it. Despite this, however, adulthood for individuals with tongue-tie can be challenging to deal with. The same symptoms that children may experience can also occur in adults. These include:
- Difficulty eating and swallowing food
- Difficulty speaking or speech impediments, including when articulating or pronouncing certain sounds (like “th”)
- Problems with speech that don’t seem to have a cause
- Tingling or numbness in the tongue (which can also be painful)
- Feeling like your mouth is very dry most of the time
- An increased risk of oral infections
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Dental crowding, missing teeth, and tooth decay
- Parafunctional habits (things people do that are hard to stop doing). These include tucking the tongue into the roof of the mouth or shark-finning it back and forth.
- Sleep apnea.
As we stated earlier, there is a surgical procedure to correct tongue tie known as a frenectomy. It is also called “clipping” a tongue tie. But it’s important to know about the disadvantages of clipping tongue tie, which we’ll discuss below.
The Frenectomy: An Overview
A frenectomy, also known as a frenotomy, is the surgical procedure to remove the frenulum. A frenectomy can be performed on infants and children as well as adults. This procedure usually takes longer for adults than younger patients because of size considerations.
An oral surgeon may perform a frenectomy under general anesthetic, although some clinicians also perform them under local anesthetic with sedation only. As with most surgical procedures, there are certain risks. Fortunately, most frenectomies happen without much incident. It is a typically low-risk procedure, but there are both advantages and disadvantages, as you will see below.
Advantages Of Clipping Tongue Tie
Frenectomies are relatively straightforward surgeries that have a high success rate. In fact, the success rate approaches 100% for those who have the procedure done by a specialist. This high success rate can be attributed to several factors:
- Simplicity. The actual surgery itself is little more than clipping and sewing.
- Recovery Time. There’s only a 12-hour recovery time in most cases.
- Affordable. The surgery cost will vary depending on your area, but you can expect to pay between $750 and $1,500 for the operation and post-op recovery.
- Effectiveness. The vast majority of adults who have the procedure will find that their tongue tie is removed naturally and without any problems.
Disadvantages Of Clipping Tongue Tie
Despite its effectiveness and low-risk nature, there are some disadvantages of having a frenectomy, which include:
- Uncontrolled Speech. After a frenectomy, those with tongue tie can find that they have trouble controlling their speech. Even if the frenectomy doesn’t cause uncontrolled speech, you may lose some of the speech habits developed over time. These include subtle ways of modifying speech and articulating certain sounds to compensate for tongue-tie. For this reason, some clinicians recommend that people who have had a frenectomy receive treatment to reinforce and rewire the muscles around their tongue so they can use their tongue more effectively.
- Difficulty Swallowing Food. After the surgery, you may experience soreness when swallowing food and liquids for a few weeks afterward. If you’re concerned about your ability to swallow, you should check with your doctor before undergoing the procedure.
- Pain And Discomfort. Although the actual procedure usually isn’t painful, you may have discomfort during the recovery period after the surgery. Some people find that they have a little bit of pain when they’re eating or swallowing, especially in the first few days after their surgery.
- Risk Of Complications. Like most surgical procedures, there’s always a chance for complications to occur during and after your treatment for tongue-tie, including bleeding and infection.
- Outcome Inconsistency. The outcomes of frenectomies depend on several factors. That includes the size of the tongue, the extent of the tongue tie, and its position relative to other oral structures. In some cases, a frenectomy may not work as well as it should. This can negatively affect speech and swallowing skills in adults who have had a procedure done.
Overall, the chances are meager that you could end up with significant complications during or after your treatment for tongue tie. However, it’s always best to seek the opinion of a qualified dentist.