How to Lengthen a Child's Lingual Frenulum?

A short lingual frenulum is a congenital defect that impairs speech and eating. Does it have a solution? Find out in this article.
How to Lengthen a Child's Lingual Frenulum?

Last update: 09 October, 2021

The need to lengthen the lingual frenulum in children arises when this membrane is shorter than it should be and prevents the tongue from moving correctly. Consequently, this hinders speech and swallowing functions.

Parents are the ones who usually detect the problem. Then, the dentist or pediatrician confirms the diagnosis. Finally, the treatment of this condition depends on the severity and the particularity of each case.

Keep reading and find out more about this problem in children.

Why lengthen children’s short lingual frenulum?

Before telling you when it’s necessary to lengthen the lingual frenulum, we want to explain exactly what this part of the mouth is. It’s a mucous membrane that’s on the floor of the mouth, connecting it to the underside of the tongue.

This tissue allows you to carry out the movements necessary for eating, swallowing, and speaking.

In some cases, this membrane is too short and practically holds the tongue on the floor of the mouth, limiting its movements. This is a condition is known as ankyloglossia, which means “tongue-tied”,  or “anchored”.

This malformation of the lingual frenulum is congenital and therefore manifests itself from birth. In many cases, it causes problems with breastfeeding because it makes it difficult to properly latch on, suck, and swallow.

Sometimes, little ones are able to get around this limitation and adapt. On the contrary, in other cases, adaptation doesn’t occur, and the child may suffer from one of the following problems:

  • Problems feeding and swallowing.
  • Difficulty pronouncing certain phonemes.
  • An inability to stick out the tongue or perform certain tongue movements.
  • And problems with the eruption of teeth.

So, when the anatomical malformation causes any of these difficulties, lengthening the lingual frenulum in children becomes necessary.

A mother kissing her baby, who has tongue-tie.

The diagnosing of a short lingual frenulum

As we already anticipated, the diagnosis of the short lingual frenulum is clinical and is the responsibility of the pediatrician, dentist, or speech therapist. Direct observation of the lingual anatomy and palpation of the tongue and frenulum are sufficient to confirm the diagnosis.

In the case of older children, specialists can carry out an evaluation of tongue mobility. To do so, they ask the little one to stick their tongue out and move it in different directions while observing how they execute the movements. With the data professionals obtain from this test, they can determine the severity of the problem and the most appropriate treatment.

Treatments to lengthen the lingual frenulum in children

The treatment to resolve the short lingual frenulum depends on each individual case. When the malformation is mild and the tongue has some mobility, professionals may prescribe certain exercises under the supervision of a speech therapist. On the other hand, for the most severe cases, a doctor will need to perform surgery to resolve the issue.

Myofunctional exercises

Through certain exercises indicated by speech therapists, it’s possible to lengthen the lingual frenulum of children. This type of therapy works only in mild cases, in which there’s already some tongue mobility.

It’s a question of educating the tongue so that it’s capable of performing phonation and swallowing movements without problems. The child usually enjoys the sessions, as they’re simple and fun activities.

The exercises can take place when the infant becomes aware of the parts of their mouth and have the ability to understand how to carry them out.

With repetitions of the movements, the frenulum gradually stretches and allows the tongue to move more freely and comfortably.

Below, you’ll find some of the exercises to lengthen the lingual frenulum of children, which kids can practice at home:

  • Bring the tip of the tongue behind the upper teeth and touch as much of the roof of the mouth as possible. It’s important for the child to hold this position and open their mouth as wide as possible.
  • Make the sound of the horse galloping. The professional invites the child to imitate the sound of the animal’s gait, at different speeds: A walk, trot, and gallop. It’s important to emphasize a slow speed, as it allows a greater contact of the tongue with the palate.
A young boy with a speech therapist.

Surgical treatment

Surgical treatment takes place only in very severe cases, in which conservative therapy fails to solve the problem. For example, when the lingual frenulum is too short and makes it impossible to perform essential oral functions.

The surgery is called a frenectomy and it’s a simple procedure that involves making a small cut in the frenulum to free the tongue. It takes place under local anesthesia, except in some very specific cases that require general anesthesia. Surgical techniques vary according to the particularities of each case.

The postoperative period doesn’t usually involve major complications, except for the inflammation of the area that ceases as the tissues heal and recover.

Complying with the surgeon’s instructions is essential to avoid discomfort and reduce the risk of infection or bleeding from the wound. After surgery, the patient must see the speech therapist to re-educate the released tongue.

The importance of medical check-ups

To conclude, being born with a short frenulum can cause feeding and speech difficulties in infants. Therefore, it’s important to take children to medical and dental check-ups from an early age.

At routine appointments, professionals check the oral cavity and can detect any abnormalities that may arise. If this diagnosis is confirmed, the most appropriate thing to do is to seek a solution early.

Lengthening the lingual frenulum of children avoids discomfort and complications in the health of children. The sooner treatment takes place, the better the infant’s prognosis and quality of life.

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