• Katie Carney

How can a tongue tie affect feeding and speech skills?

Updated: Apr 4, 2019


Tongue tie is a condition present at birth that restricts the tongue's range of motion. With tongue tie, an unusually short, thick, or tight band of tissue is present under the tongue. (Mayo Clinic, 2016). There is also a condition called a lip tie, in which tissue restricts the lips' range of motion and movement. Some people may have a tongue or lip tie and never have any affect on the function of their mouth. However, others can have significant difficulty with feeding and speech sound development.


In infancy a tie may affect an infants ability to breast or bottle feed, often times these babies will have symptoms such as:

  • frequent spitting up

  • gassiness

  • fussiness

  • refusal of bottle or breast

  • painful/inefficient latching

  • failure to thrive

  • clicking noise when breast feeding

  • frequent breaking of latch

Some babies may have no trouble breast or bottle feeding but when they progress to purees and solid foods difficulty is discovered. These babies may have symptoms such as:

  • tongue thrust (pushing food from the mouth with the tongue)

  • difficulty using the lips to clear food from a spoon

  • pocketing of food (food remaining in mouth after the swallow)

  • over-stuffing of food in the mouth

  • inability to close the lips when swallowing

  • difficulty moving food from the center of the mouth to the molars for chewing

  • gagging/choking

  • food refusal

  • preference for soft solid foods that require minimal chewing

Children may become fearful of choking because innately they know they cannot properly manage tougher foods. These children may look like picky eaters, but in reality they may be sticking with softer foods they can easily break down and swallow.


With speech sound development, children with tongue ties may have difficulty or inability to produce any of the sounds in our language depending on the location of the tie and the severity. The following symptoms may be present:

  • atypical movement of the mouth during speech

  • difficulty producing words at the sentence or conversation level

  • atypical speech sound errors

  • tongue thrust (protrusion of tongue between teeth during speaking or at rest)

  • lisp

  • open mouth posture/drooling


References:

Merkel-Walsh, R. & Overland, L. (2018). Functional Assessment and Remediation of TOTs (tethered oral tissues).


Katie is the owner of Katie Carney Speech Therapy, LLC, where she provides play based and family centered speech and feeding therapy on the south side of Chicago. Katie has a passion for proper oral motor, feeding, and speech development. To contact Katie visit her website at katiecarneyspeech.com, call her at 773-914-2194, or email her at info@katiecarneyspeech.com.


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