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Searching for answers about tongue tie?

Surround yourself with healthcare professionals who can help

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Tongue tied?

We get it. If you or your child might have tongue tie (ankyloglossia), it can feel overwhelming. Remember, you’re not alone. About one in every ten babies has an oral restriction. That means that millions of people are searching for answers about this condition, just like you.

This article will help you get to know the types of healthcare professionals who can help and how to assemble your circle of support.

 

Here to help

Although education about oral restrictions is growing in the medical field, there are still many healthcare providers out there who might not be aware of the significant consequences that oral restrictions can have on health if left untreated. That’s why it's so important to make sure that the healthcare providers you see for an oral tether fully understand tongue tie diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

The health:latch circle was created to help you surround yourself with healthcare professionals from a variety of fields who are knowledgeable about oral restrictions and committed to helping families thrive.


What types of health professionals can help with oral restrictions?

Specific types of healthcare professionals can help your child before, during and after a tongue tie release procedure, depending on their needs.


They can be broken down into three basic categories:
  • Functionalists provide therapy and exercises to support the recovery of functions such as eating, speech, and sleep.
  • Proceduralists are trained and licensed to diagnose oral restrictions and perform the release procedure.
  • Structuralists provide treatment and therapy to support healthy structure of the teeth, bones, and body.

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Functionalists

Proceduralists

Structuralists

  • lactation consultant (IBCLC)
  • cranio sacral therapist (CST)
  • occupational therapist
  • speech & language pathologist (SLP)
  • doula
  • midwife
  • myofunctional therapist
  • physical therapist
  • registered nurse
  • dietitian
  • dental hygienist
  • posturologist
  • dentist
  • doctor
  • nurse practitioner
  • naturopath
  • chiropractor
  • ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor/or otorhinolaryngologist)
  • general dentist
  • general surgeon
  • naturopathic physician
  • oral surgeon
  • orthodontist
  • physical medicine specialist

 


How do I know which type I need?

The types of healthcare professionals who can help will vary depending factors such as:
  • Age and developmental stage
  • How long the oral restriction has gone untreated
  • The extent to which you or your child has compensated for the oral restriction
  • Other health conditions and needs


Team effort

Too often healthcare specialists work in isolation on specific issues or parts of the body. It's important to have a full picture of health that puts together all of the pieces. To set yourself up for success, you want a team that communicates with each other across disciplines for a full-health approach. At any age, a multi-provider, collaborative effort will help your family have the best possible outcome.

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Does age play a factor?

Keep in mind that many of the examples of healthcare providers included below are often needed throughout various developmental stages. The type and length of therapy that is needed will depend a lot on how long an individual had an untreated oral tie issue. Since oral restrictions are present at birth, the older the patient, the more likely they are to need more support from several fields over a longer period of time.


Infant (newborn to 3 months)

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Many oral restrictions are diagnosed in babies due to difficulties with breastfeeding. At this stage of development the main issue is the baby’s inability to properly suction, suck and swallow due to an abnormal oral tether. This can lead to weight loss, low weight gain and a failure to thrive diagnosis for the baby, as well as clogged milk ducts, mastitis, infections, and nipple pain for the nursing mother.

The ideal time for a baby to have a release procedure is between 6-14 days after it is born. When an oral restriction is diagnosed and treated at this stage, you can prevent many other complications and conditions that can arise in a child with an untreated oral tie issue.

In some cases an oral restriction goes undiagnosed for several months because a baby compensates for their restriction and continues growing and gaining weight. When a baby has an undiagnosed oral restriction it is very common for its weight to drop at about 7 or 8 weeks old. This is because it is around this time when a baby with an oral restriction will shift from being an “active feeder” to a “passive feeder”.

At this stage mothers will notice that their milk supply starts to dip as the baby feeds less. This is simply because the baby has become tired of compensating for their oral restriction. At this point the baby’s neck hurts from the physical effort of working so hard to suck and swallow milk. In order to be able to continue breastfeeding, timing is crucial to diagnose and treat an oral restriction before the milk supply dries up.


Examples of how different types of professionals can help:
  • A trained OBGYN or primary care physician (Pediatrician, Nurse Practitioner or Family Practitioner) can examine for obvious signs of restriction of the tongue lip or cheek. They can also listen to parents about symptoms that could alert them to an oral restriction.
  • A doula or midwife can notice symptoms related to sleep and breastfeeding and help you with support and a referral. (They cannot diagnose or treat an oral restriction.)
  • A lactation consultant can help you follow-up from the frenectomy procedure in the first 3-5 days and beyond to adjust your feeding plan and technique.
  • A pediatric dentist can diagnose the oral restriction and perform the oral release procedure.

Baby (3 months to 1 year)

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At this stage of development, your baby may or may not be breastfeeding. When your baby is around six months old your pediatrician will advise you about how to introduce foods other than breastmilk or formula. Your baby will start to make babbling sounds, crawl and develop motor skills. This is a time when sleep and feeding patterns are changing.

Many, if not all, of these developmental milestones and processes can be affected by an oral restriction. As a parent it is important to know the signs and symptoms of tongue tie so you can communicate them to your healthcare provider who knows about oral restrictions such as your pediatrician.


Examples of how different types of professionals can help:
  • A cranio sacral therapist and other types of bodyworkers can get cerebral spinal fluid going and help reveal an oral restriction.
  • A pediatric dentist can diagnose the oral restriction and perform the oral release procedure.
  • An occupational therapist can help your family to teach your baby how to regenerate the normal suck/swallow patterns with exercises and techniques. Your baby will need this function for the rest of their life.
  • A dietitian can help ensure that mom and baby’s diet is correct for the release procedure to heal quickly and properly.


Child (1 to 12 years)

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At this stage, your child is learning important skills and functions that will serve them for the rest of their life. As a parent you might notice issues such as problems sleeping, a lisp or difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, challenges with activities such as licking a popsicle or playing a wind instrument. Parents may also be concerned about ADD and ADHD symptoms, which may be indirectly linked to sleep and brain function due to an oral restriction affecting their ability to breathe properly.


Examples of how different types of professionals can help:
  • A naturopathic physician treats the whole person. They can identify and diagnose an oral restriction and use both traditional treatments and modern science to help your child before and after the release procedure.
  • A registered nurse may connect the dots between symptoms that parents bring to their attention, such as difficulties pronouncing certain sounds and bags under the eyes due to poor sleep habits.
  • A pediatrician or nurse practitioner can diagnose an oral tether and can make a referral to a specialist such as a speech and language pathologist (SLP).
  • A dentist may notice teeth crowding, jaw and palate issues, or difficulties with oral hygiene. They can diagnose an oral restriction and perform the release procedure.
  • A speech and language pathologist (SLP) can help your child with speech exercises and help them successfully communicate.


Teen (13 to 19 years)

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At this stage, there are often structural problems or “collapse” related to an untreated oral restriction that need to be corrected.


Examples of how different types of professionals can help:
  • A dental hygienist may notice oral hygiene issues or physical signs that point to an oral restriction and can report this to their dentist.
  • A registered nurse may pick up on symptoms of an untreated oral restriction or notice patterns such as chronic ear infections, sinus infections, and swollen adenoids.
  • An orthodontist may be needed to correct dental and facial irregularities caused by an untreated oral restriction such as gaps, overcrowding, bad bites, and poor jaw alignment with non-surgical procedures such as braces and retainers.
  • An ENT, ear, nose and throat doctor (otorhinolaryngologist) will often see children who have been referred to them due to sleep issues. They can examine the airway to look for blockage.
  • A posturalist can address when a teenager has been slumping down as the body makes an effort to open the airway to breathe.


Adult (19+ years)

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At this stage, it is common to see significant structural damage due to an untreated oral restriction. Because form follows function, the movement of the muscles actually changes the bone, leading to problems with posture,migraines, tension, and head and neck pain. Impaired breathing affects sleep, digestion, cardiovascular and could even be linked to mental health issues related to airway restriction.

At this stage it is likely that you will be referred to a functionalist before the tongue tie release procedure so that issues can be addressed before the release.


Examples of how different types of professionals can help:
  • An oral surgeon may be needed to correct structural issues caused by an oral restriction to restore the airway.
  • A chiropractor can perform spinal adjustments to improve mobility and function that was impaired by an oral restriction over time.
  • A primary care doctor may notice issues with sleep, breathing, and digestion that could be indirectly linked to an oral restriction. There could also be cardiovascular symptoms or even mental health issues related to airway restrictions.
  • A general surgeon can address head and neck issues to resolve damage and tension caused by airway restrictions.

 

Specialized Clinics

The key word in the movement to overcome tongue tie is collaboration. Due to the need for true collaboration across healthcare fields, specialized clinics are starting to emerge across the world. These clinics are breaking barriers by creating multidisciplinary teams to focus on solving problems related to oral restrictions.

Medical and dental professionals that were once scattered across separate offices are now working together at centralized locations to make it easier for patients and their families to access the care and support they need. Some serve all ages, and others specialize in specific ages.

Here are just a few of the growing number of collaborative clinics rising up to fill the need for tongue-tie specific care:

Tongue-Tied Center

Dr. Richard Baxter, a pediatric dentist and the author of Tongue-Tied, opened the Alabama Tongue-Tied Center where his team treats patients from infants to adults. Dr. Baxter’s Tongue Tied Academy has made significant strides in educating dentists and physicians to be able to identify and treat oral restrictions.

The Breathe Institute

Stanford trained ENT Dr. Soroush Zaghi founded The Breathe Institute in Los Angeles, California to further treatment, education and research around the issue of disordered breathing and sleep-related issues, including oral tethers. Their functional approach to wellness takes into account biological rhythms and evidenced-based methods to resolve root causes, not just treat symptoms.

 

health:latch clinic

health:latch clinic in Bellevue, Washington is a leader in oral restriction release and support for infants 0 - 3 months. With two naturopathic physicians, a pediatric dentist, and a craniosacral therapist, this clinic offers a full-health approach including examination, diagnosis, laser technology frenectomy. The health:latch team aims to educate, diagnose, treat, and support families with challenges related to tongue tie and early infant feeding.

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Create your circle of care

Are you ready to create your circle of support? health:latch was created to make this easy and simple.


The health:latch circle is a radically kind and defiantly joyful online community of parents, patients, and professionals across healthcare fields who know the issues of airway health, oral dysfunction & oral restrictions inside and out, and hold your best interests at heart.

Parents can join the health:latch circle for FREE and instantly access information, get answers from specialists and connect with healthcare providers who understand oral restrictions.

 

Ready to thrive? Learn more about creating your circle of care here.

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