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Tongue Ties, Lip Ties, Cheek Ties, Oh My!

Did you know that 4-11% of children are both with a tongue tie? That is a lot of babies! There is a misconception in the medical world that lip, tongue, and cheek ties only cause issues if a child is breastfeeding. As a speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding, swallowing, speech and oral myofunctional disorders, I can tell you that this is not true. I see kiddos and adults (yes, I said adults!) who are impacted by a tongue tie.

I would like to tell you about a few of my little friends. For privacy, I will name this friend James. He received early intervention services for a few years with minimal progress on his feeding and speech skills. When James was about four, his parent bit the bullet and got his tongue and lip tie released. I did start seeing James until after he already had the release. Although he has the release, he still had a lot of work to do to improve his oral motor skills so that he could finally move this tongue to the side of his mouth to chew, instead of chewing with his front teeth. He was finally able to move his tongue to make various speech sounds. That pesky little tissue had caused him issues well into his young childhood.

I want to tell you about another friend named Sally (not her real name,). Sally had always struggled to say the “s” and “r” sounds. Despite seeing a speech therapist, Sally continued to not be able to produce those sounds. When I met Sally and took a peek in her mouth, I immediately saw a pretty significant tongue tie! If the tongue is ties too far to the tip or too tight to the floor of the mouth, this can significantly impact speech, especially that pesky “r” sound! We started by doing oral (mouth) myofunctional (muscle movement) therapy exercises to start to address oral motor patterns. Sally got her tongue tie released and the next session, she was finally able to correctly produce the “r” sound! Now she is saying phrases with the “r” sound correctly. I think that tongue tie significantly impacted her time.

I, myself have a tongue tie. I did not know this until about a year ago! I have a fairly mild tie which does not impact my speech, but it does impact some of my eating skills. I also have a history of TMJ disorder, tension headaches, forward posture and stomach sleeping. These are all potential side effects of my tongue tie. I am so very excited to get my tongue tie released next month! In the meantime, I will be doing my oral myofunctional therapy exercises and preparing for my release so that it can be as successful as possible.

I have a million more stories like these for my patients from newborn in the NICU all the way to elderly adults. I also have stories about how lip and check ties can impact oral function and oral care.

If you are concerns that you or your child have tethered oral tissues, come see us for a functional evaluation and we can help direct you to other medical providers to be part of your care team!

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