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Let’s talk about tongue ties and the issues they can cause later in life

Posted on May 16th, 2023

A tongue tie is also known as ankyloglossia. It’s a condition that occurs when the lingual frenulum (the thin piece of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is shorter or tighter than usual, restricting the tongue’s movement. 

Healthcare providers typically diagnose tongue ties in infants and young children. But if a tongue tie goes untreated, it can cause issues later in life.

These issues include…

  • Trouble chewing and swallowing firmer foods 
  • Development of a high palate and narrow facial structure
  • Poor sleep 
  • Daytime fatigue 
  • Mouth breathing
  • Snoring 
  • Poor dental hygiene 
  • Delayed speech development and impaired speech 
  • Digestive issues
  • Increased gas and bloating 

An untreated tongue tie can also lead to dental problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease, due to the tongue’s inability to clean the teeth properly. 

But one of the most significant issues that can arise from an untreated tongue tie is sleep apnea. 

What is sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur multiple times during the night. 

The two main types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is caused by a blockage in the airway, typically due to relaxed muscles. And CSA is caused by the brain’s failure to signal the muscles that control breathing. 

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include…

  • Loud snoring 
  • Gasping or choking during sleep 
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health issues, such as…

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease 
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

Treating a tongue tie in adults 

Fortunately, healthcare providers can still treat tongue ties in adults. Treatment usually occurs through a procedure called a frenectomy. 

During a frenectomy, a doctor cuts the frenulum to release the tongue’s movement and allow it to function properly. The procedure is relatively simple. But only a qualified healthcare professional should perform it to avoid complications. A frenectomy generally takes just a few minutes to perform using either a scalpel or laser and local anesthesia. 

After the procedure, patients may experience some mild discomfort and swelling. They can manage any pain with over-the-counter pain medications and ice packs. 

Patients may need to follow up with their healthcare providers after the procedure to make sure there weren’t any complications. In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend more exercises or therapy to help improve patients’ speech or swallow function. 

If you suspect you may have a tongue tie or are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider. They can examine your mouth and refer you to an oral surgeon or ENT specialist who can diagnose and treat the condition. 

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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