The term tongue ties has come up if you are a new parent. Whether it be from a friend, family member or health care practitioner, tongue ties are something that are commonly assessed for, and unfortunately often missed. The history of tongue ties is lengthy, but we are going to utilize this post to educate about the relevance of tongue ties and tongue function when looking at overall development.

What to look for

Firstly, it is important to note, not all tongue ties are the same. There are different grades of tongue ties and regardless of the grade, the function of the tongue is more important in deciding if you are going to release it or not. When looking at tongue function, sticking the tongue out past the lower lip, is not enough. We need to look at:

  • where the tongue sits at rest,
  • is the mouth open or closed while sleeping,
  • what is the mouth posture at rest,
  • Is there clicking while feeding,
  • how does the tongue cup a nipple or bottle,
  • what is the shape of the roof of the mouth,
  • how long can the tongue stay cupped,
  • is the tongue able to move side to side without issue,
  • is there milk or formula leaking while feeding,
  • how is introducing solids.

Tongue ties, tongue function and development

Muscular activity on a bone causes that bone to grow and strengthen in that area. When we look at the jaw, and subsequently the skull, the driving force is the tongue. The tongue has a massive impact on development, not only with speech, but with head and jaw shape, eating habits, teeth alignment, sinus formation, sleep quality, energy levels and more. If the tongue is not applying the necessary force, the jaw and roof of the mouth become narrow.

Impacts of tongue ties and poor tongue function

This impacts teeth alignment, bite, chewing mechanics which most people can understand, but it also impacts the nasal airways and sinuses. This is best understood when we realize the floor of the nasal cavity and sinuses, is the roof of the mouth. If the tongue does not provide pressure to the roof of the mouth, it begins to narrow and heighten, leading to smaller nasal cavities.

This leads to narrowed sinuses, higher risk for sinus infections, inflamed tonsils and adenoids, poor breathing mechanics, poor sleep and in severe cases sleep apnea. Dr. Casey has an instagram post on mouth breathing here. Poor breathing mechanics can also lead to a heightened or activated sympathetic nervous system. When thinking about the sympathetic nervous system, think about fight, flight or freeze, high adrenaline, high stress response. With an activated sympathetic nervous system, some will find it hard to fall or stay asleep, hard to concentrate, feeling jumpy and anxiousness. This can present similarly to ADD/ADHD in young children and in some cases, kids are misdiagnosed.

We cannot stress the importance of oral function enough. If you are looking to book an appointment for you or your little one, please click here.


The Crescent Health Team

tongue ties crescent health collective
Oral function and tongue tie assessment by Dr. Casey Baker at Crescent Health Collective.