Why Your Child’s First Dental Visit is About More Than Teeth and Gums…

Taking your child for their first dental hygienist visit is more than about examining their teeth and gums. During their first dental visit, the dental hygienist or dentist is also assessing if there is a tongue tie present.

So, what is a tongue tie?

A tongue tie involves the band of tissue on the underside of tongue. This band of tissue connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The dental term for this band of tissue is the lingual frenum, and it is visible when the tip of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth (otherwise known as the palate). When the lingual frenum (band of tissue) is too short, it looks thick and tight and can have negative effects on the development of the muscles of the mouth. It can also affect the gums on the inside of the lower front, eventually leading to gum problems such as recession and tone loss in the area. Every tongue is unique, and a tongue tie is often present in other family members as well.

A simple assessment

During the dental visit, the dental hygienist examines the tongue and checks where the lingual frenum is attaching on the inside of the lower front teeth. The tip of the tongue is also assessed for range of motion. If the tongue has good range of motion, it will be able to move freely in the mouth and allow for proper pronunciation of sounds.

Why address a tongue tie?

Well, a tongue tie can affect simple activities, like licking an ice cream cone. If the band of tissue (lingual frenum) is too short, the tongue doesn’t have full range of motion to extend to be able to lick the ice cream. Even more concerning, the severity of the tongue tie can affect diet and nutrition, and can delay speech development. Infants who have a tongue tie will experience difficulty nursing because they are not able to latch on properly. The tongue is involved in the sucking action needed for breastfeeding. In more severe situations, toddlers and children who are tongue tied may have difficulty chewing their food and may have aversions to certain foods. This can ultimately lead to poor nutrition and diet in the long term for these children.

Depending on the severity of the tongue tie, children and adults with tongue tie are unable to clearly articulate sounds like “t”, ”d”, ”n” and “th”. One of the first signs of the tonguetie is generally unclear speech. If a tongue tie is present, the dental professional will refer to either a pediatrician or oral surgeon. Early intervention is critical when speech is being affected by a tongue tie. In addition to the speech impairment, issues of self-confidence and self-esteem may develop with the child because they are aware that they sound different when they speak.

Has your child had his or her first birthday, and not yet been to the dentist?

Checking for a tongue tie is another important reason toddlers should visit their dental hygienist before their first birthday. Visit the family-friendly Pina Mazza at Maple Dental Hygiene Care today!


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