Link Between Tethered Oral Tissue and Sleep Apnea in Children

tethered oral tissue and sleep apnea

tethered oral tissue and sleep apneaKnoxville and Maryville, TN

If you are a parent, specifically a new mommy, you should be aware of tongue and lip ties, also known as tethered oral tissues (TOTS), and the warning signs that you child may have this condition. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent long-term health consequences.

The longer a person lives with an abnormally short lingual frenum, the greater the likelihood that negative oral habits develop to compensate for that restricted range of motion. The consequences can include problems chewing, swallowing, breastfeeding, and also affect the child’s speech development.

Symptoms of TOTS can emerge early in life, especially in infancy as the infant attempts to breastfeed. Problems such as trouble latching, falling off the breast regularly, clicking sounds while nursing, constant crying from not getting full, or frequent nursing sessions can be signs that an infant has tethered oral tissue.

Did you know, however, that one of the consequences of an untreated tethered oral tissue can also be obstructive sleep apnea?

A recent study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Research reinforces the threat of tethered oral tissue causing sleep apnea in children. The study was a retrospective analysis pre-pubescent children who already were considered to be possible sleep apnea patients. They exhibited symptoms of the sleep breathing disorder, including snoring, poor quality of sleep, and daytime fatigue. Upon examination, 27 of these children also were found to have some form of tethered oral tissue—either a tongue-tie or lip-tie.

Many of the children who were found to have tethered oral tissue or TOT for short, also had a history of issues with speech, swallowing, and suction, especially early in life. All 27 children with TOT had abnormal orofacial anatomy and a smaller oral cavity. Having an abnormally short lingual frenum often causes abnormal tongue function early in life, and secondary impact results in poor orofacial growth. Such conditions can substantially increase the likelihood that a sleep breathing disorder is present.

When a person has a disorder such as sleep apnea, breathing becomes impeded or interrupted when a person lies down to sleep. A patient with sleep apnea experiences a collapse of soft tissue in the airway. These collapses can occur hundreds of times during a given night. Each time one of these blockages happens, the brain and body react as if it were choking to death, jolting the child awake and depriving them of the restoration of mind and body that occurs during the normal sleep cycle.

Diagnosing a tethered oral tissue can be challenging for parents or even lactation consultants. The medical professional performing the examination must be aware of the tongue and its normal range of motion. At Crestview Dental Care, our dentists have been working with patients suffering from tethered oral tissue for years. Our practice also can treat a tethered oral tissue by removing it through a frenectomy, performed with our state-of-the-art carbon dioxide laser (CO2 Light Scalpel Laser).

Why is a CO2 laser different?

A frenectomy using a CO2 laser is much safer than a traditional surgical frenectomy, performing the procedure in less time—sometimes in as little as 10 to 20 minutes—with less bleeding. Your infant or child also will heal more quickly from a laser frenectomy than a surgical procedure. After a frenectomy, your child may need a course of myofunctional therapy—a series of simple exercises that work the muscles of the mouth, face, and tongue that help eliminate any negative oral habits that may have developed because of the abnormally short frenum.

Infants that undergo a frenectomy by way of a CO2 laser can immediately nurse afterward, and symptoms associated with their TOTS should subside.

If your child is exhibiting symptoms of a restricted lingual frenum or some of the symptoms of a sleep breathing disorder such as loud snoring, then contact our office to schedule a consultation today by calling (865) 982-1700.

Crestview Dental Care is here to serve patients in the areas of Knoxville, and Maryville in east Tennessee.