It is common to say “sorry I got a little tongue tied” when we mess up on our words or attempt to say a tongue twister. Tongue twisters, excitement, fatigue, and many other reasons can cause us to want to use this expression. However, true tongue tie or “ankyloglossia” is a physiological occurrence that can influence our speech and feeding.
Tongue tie affects thousands of children and adults, and each individual with tongue tie is unique in their difficulties. It can cause difficulty with our speech, sucking skills, and feeding skills. As an infant, tongue tie can directly influence weight gain, sucking, feeding via bottle or breast, and interest/willingness to feed. For a toddler, tongue tie can directly influence the production of speech sounds and social skills (i.e. the ability to stick out one’s tongue at a peer or being teased for speech production).
Many professionals are concerned about tongue tie for very different reasons. These professionals can include ENT specialists, dentists, speech-language pathologists, lactation consultants, surgeons, or general practitioners. Each specialist will happily share their professional opinion if you are concerned about your son or daughter. However, there are some things to consider before deciding if surgery is the best option.
First, surgery at any age will cause the individual to relearn feeding/sucking skills. Having a sore in your mouth or a change in your mouth (i.e. like when you lose a tooth) causes everyone to change or relearn their habits/skills. Second, surgery can have the same impact on speech. Let’s say your child has difficulty with “th” or “l” sounds, having the surgery will not solve this problem. The surgery may make it so that their tongue can now reach the correct place to produce these sounds, however, the individual will have to relearn how to move their tongue to make these sounds as well as many other sounds that they previously mastered. This is due to the fact that their tongue now has a larger range of motion. As you address your concern about tongue tie, please keep in mind that there are many different opinions on treatment and there are positive and negative side effects to a surgery.
–Megan– TEAM 4 Kids SLP