tight tongue

A Tight Tongue or Tongue Tie

tight tongueScotts Valley and Santa Cruz, CA

As dentists, we are most often focused on the health of the teeth and gums.  But one of the most important parts of your mouth is actually the tongue!  From birth, the tongue is largely responsible for an infant’s ability to latch during breastfeeding.  The development of a proper swallow during breast feeding then dramatically affects the growth and development of a child’s face, as well as influences orthodontic problems such as crowding, poor bites, and ‘buck teeth.’  As an adult, tongue placement will continue to affect the position of the teeth and can also be the source of airway obstruction in snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

One of the most common problems with the tongue is the presence of a tight lingual frenum, or a “tongue tie.”  The frenum is what attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, and when it is too tight, it prevents proper swallowing, proper rest oral posture, and proper speech.  A savvy pediatrician or lactation consultant may catch a tongue tie in an infant, but if it is missed, it can be the source of some of the previously mentioned problems.

There is good news, however, when it comes to the tongue’s ability to function properly.  Much like a professional trainer in a gym who teaches correct posture and training techniques to influence proper physical development of the body, a myofunctional therapist plays a similar role for proper development of oral and facial structures. They are sub-specialists with degrees in either speech language pathology, dentistry, or dental hygiene that evaluate and treat various oral, facial, postural and functional disorders that may disrupt normal dental development. Mouth breathing, habitual lip biting, thumb sucking, and improper chewing and swallowing are just some of the things a myofunctional therapist can help address.

Myofunctional therapy is also an excellent compliment to orthodontic treatment.  Every time you swallow, your tongue can apply up to 500 grams of pressure to the teeth!  Braces, on the other hand, apply about 2 grams of pressure.  If you don’t correct the tongue problems, orthodontic problems will quickly relapse once the braces come off.

In summary, myofunctional therapy can help positively influence facial growth and development for children, and can help patients who are considering orthodontics, are actively in treatment, or have already had orthodontics. We are very lucky to have our own myofunctional therapist here in our office – Jean Shimizu, RDH.  For more information or to book a consultation with Jean, call 831-438-4411 today.