Ask an Expert: “Tongue tied”

Mother and daughter playing with finger toys

How do I know whether my child’s speech and language delays are due to being “tongue tied?” When is surgery appropriate?

Tongue tied is when the child’s frenulum, the connective tissue that connects the bottom of your tongue to the floor of mouth, is either partially or completely fused to the floor of the mouth. The medical term for this condition is ‘ankyloglossia.’

When children have this condition, it impacts the range of motion of the tongue for tongue tip protrusion (sticking the tongue out past the teeth) and elevation (tongue tip to palate). Decreased lingual range of motion can have negative effects on feeding; specifically, how a child chews the food and forms a food bolus and/or swallows. Many children with akyloglossia, however, do not present with speech or feeding difficulties and proficiently eat a variety of foods and liquids, elevate the tongue tip for speech sounds /t, d, n/, and protrude the tongue for the interdental sounds (voiced and voiceless “th”).

In effect, there is no clear evidence that there is a causal relationship between akyloglossia and speech delays, and it should not be assumed that a surgical intervention will solve speech sound disorders. For more information, please contact us!

(Reference: ASHA)