Tongue-tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a condition present at birth that limits the tongue’s range of motion. The tongue attaches to the floor of the mouth with a web of tissue called the lingual frenulum. Typically, the lingual frenulum separates before birth, allowing the tongue free range of motion. With tongue-tie, the lingual frenulum remains attached to the bottom of the tongue, so it may interfere with an infant’s ability to effectively latch during breast-feeding. Tongue-tie typically does not cause mechanical difficulties in the child’s oral hygiene, but can affect a child’s speech articulation. The cause of tongue-tie is largely unknown, although some cases of tongue-tie have been associated with certain genetic factors.
Symptoms and signs of tongue-tie include; difficulty with breastfeeding, difficulty lifting the tongue to the upper teeth or moving the tongue from side to side, trouble sticking out the tongue past the lower front teeth or a tongue that appears notched or heart shaped when stuck out.
If a tongue-tie is interfering with feeding, speech or oral hygiene or causing discomfort, then surgical intervention may be necessary and a frenotomy or frenuloplasty may be required.
Let’s look at the 4 ways chiropractic care can help possibly avoid surgery, before or after a tongue-tie surgery or help the baby with feeding dysfunction.
- Reducing Nerve Interference to Tongue Muscles: Tightness in the tongue is not only caused by issues with the lingual frenulum, but can also be created by interference in the transmission of signals from cranial nerve XII (controls the movement of the tongue muscle). Adjustments to the baby’s neck intra-oral cranial bones and soft tissue can improve and clear the signals in order to relax the tongue to allow for proper latching and breastfeeding.
- Aligning Bone and Joint Structures that are Attached to the Tongue: The tongue muscle is attached to the bones of the head and neck and if the structures are not aligned in a functional position, then the soft tissues connected to it can become distorted from proper alignment. This can restrict tongue motion and is known as a “biomechanical tongue-tie”. Proper alignment of the structures via chiropractic adjustments optimizes their function to allow for proper movement.
- Ruling Out the Frenulum as the Culprit: The frenulum is not always the cause of tongue restriction. A tight jaw or misaligned vertebra (subluxation) may be the reason for tongue restriction and may also cause an ineffective latch or milk transfer. Receiving chiropractic care prior to a tongue-tie evaluation or surgery will allow a provider to better assess the tongue’s natural state of being.
- Enhancing Results of Tongue-Tie Surgery: If tongue-tie surgery is necessary, consider “pre-habilitation” to allow the surgeon better tissue to work with during surgery. It’s important to achieve alignment of the head and neck structures prior to surgery in order for the procedure to be best effective and to allow for optimum wound healing. If surgery is required, chiropractic care can help to rehabilitate the head, spine and tongue; correcting motor skill development of the tongue and spine, support and encourage ideal wound healing and optimize the anatomy to accommodate the change created from surgery.
Chiropractic in general promotes support for an infant’s growing spine and optimum healing and adaptation from birth stresses, traumas and strains. Seeing a chiropractor can decrease the chance of surgery or support post-surgery in order for your infant to achieve normal physiological function and performance.