Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley, CA
Having children who are picky eaters is quite common, but for some kids, the problems run deeper than that. Children may have food allergies, intolerance to certain foods, or a deficiency of certain vitamins or minerals. However, sometimes the culprit behind an eating difficulty in a child stems from an undiagnosed tongue-tie.
What is tongue-tie?
A tongue-tie, which is referred to clinically as ankyloglossia, refers to any case in which the membrane underneath the tongue—known as the frenulum—is either too short or too tight. The presence of a tongue-tie can make the tip of your tongue appear blunt, forked, or heart-shaped.
What are the symptoms of a tongue-tie?
Parents, it is important to know the symptoms of a tongue-tie. In young children, one of the most significant signs that a tongue-tie exists is if he or she gags and often chokes when eating. If the frenulum is restricted, then your child may be experiencing difficulty moving their tongue to swallow foods safely. This causes frequent gagging and choking when eating.
Depending on the severity of the tongue-tie, and any adaptive behaviors that may have developed to compensate for the lack of range of motion in the tongue, your child may be able to swallow comfortably with certain types of foods but not others. This may lead parents to think the behavior of their children has to do with being picky, not chewing adequately, or a heightened gag reflex.
Certain other behaviors during meals add to the evidence that a tongue-tie exists. A tongue-tie often can strain the musculature of the jaw, neck, head, and shoulders. This occurs because the tie pulls the jaw into a position that prevents full, proper relaxation. This results in muscle tension and jaw fatigue. In children, this tension and jaw fatigue may manifest in behaviors such as eating small portions, eating more frequently, having problems chewing more challenging foods like raw crunchy vegetables or tough meat, or swallowing a bite of food before it was properly chewed.
Get your child checked!
Remember, if your child has a tongue-tie, early diagnosis is key. The longer a person lives with a restricted frenum, the more likely it is that negative behaviors develop to compensate for the limits in the range of motion. At Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry, our dentists have the training and experience to identify a tongue-tie and then treat the disorder—usually by performing a frenectomy, which releases the frenulum that is limiting the range of motion of the tongue.
What happens after a frenectomy?
Following a frenectomy, our staff also can begin a course of orofacial myofunctional therapy. Also known as OMT, this therapy consists of a series of simple, usually painless exercises that work the muscles of the face and mouth, along with the tongue, to correct any negative oral habits that may have developed unconsciously to compensate for the limited range of motion.
Tongue-Tie Evaluation in Scotts Valley
If your child is experiencing some of the food difficulties listed above, consider having him or her evaluated for a tongue-tie. Call the office of Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry today at (831) 438-4411 to schedule an appointment.
Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry serves patients located in the California communities of Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Scotts Valley.