Lip and Tongue Tie – Let’s talk about the facts

It’s great to see recent publicity about lip and tongue ties here in the Australian media. The question now is: where is the science?

However, the more important question that every individual, regardless if they are medical or non-medical, should ask is “why?”. Why are there so many people in support of tongue-tie correction? Why are there more people advising to get it done? Why are there others against it?

To make an informed opinion, we should search for the answers and be ready to hear both sides with an open mind. The science and the research surrounding correction has advanced greatly in the last few years, and we now know more than what was known 20 years ago.

To see adults, children, parents of young children and mothers of infants condemning the negative publicity on the Australian media speaks volumes; it should be heard and listened to. There’s only one thing guaranteed with any medical procedure, or even administering one tablet – that it may have a side effect. Removing an ingrown toenail may lead to amputation of part of a limb, removing tonsils may lead to bleeding and longer admission to hospital, not to mention the pain. What about a simple eye surgery that may cause the person to lose sight? The list will go on. A rare adverse effect doesn’t mean that this treatment should be banned. Undertaking any surgical operation is never based on emotional factors, or how much pain; it’s about improvement. I do not believe that any healthcare provider will perform or prescribe any treatment to cause an adverse effect on any person.

Before going on, we need to understand the basic foundation of human anatomy and functionality of human organs, specifically the tongue!

If you haven’t graduated from a medical-related education, or even if you did and have forgotten how the human tongue functions, then here’s a reminder of the anatomical facts.

Role of the Tongue

The tongue plays a critical role in three functions:

  • Swallowing: The tongue muscle elevation, affecting the position of the hyoid bone (this is the bone that is responsible for connecting the tongue muscles to the neck muscles).
  • Breathing: Protecting and maintaining the airway opening, connected to the soft palate and skull.
  • Speech: The tongue forms speech sounds with different elevations.

The picture below shows the connected tongue muscles. Watch for hyoid bone, mandible, clavicle, and the direct and indirect connection between the tongue muscles, neck and vertebrae.

The tongue is ideally located to perform these functions due to its position at the entrance to both the gastrointestinal system and the respiratory system.

It is ideally constructed to perform these functions because its complex architecture and freely moving muscles at the end (body and tip of tongue) allow it to form markedly complex shapes.

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