I often have parents ask whether tongue tie will affect their child’s speech.
My answer is… rarely. Tongue ties that might cause speech difficulties, i.e. the ones where the tongue is fairly well tethered to the bottom of the mouth, tend to be released at a very young age because it is causing feeding difficulties and that is usually how it is first noticed. Once a tongue tie is released, it means the tongue can now freely move around the mouth and reach the positions needed for speech sounds.
If a tongue is tied closer to the front of the tongue, speech sounds that are articulated using the front of the mouth could potentially be affected e.g. s, t, d, n, l. If the tongue is tied further back and holding the middle of the tongue down, then sounds such as ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘j’, ‘r’ that should be made with the middle of the tongue up on the hard palate could be affected. However, even when I have seen children for speech therapy who have a tongue tie, it has not been so tight that they are unable to make every speech sound needed with careful articulation.
If a tongue tie is not released, the tongue cannot move as freely and this can affect breast/bottle feeding, the ability to sweep the teeth (dental health), where the tongue sits at resting position (important for breathing), and sometimes speech (difficulty making some speech sounds as discussed above). Later on, kissing can be tricky – usually that’s noticed in the teen years though. 😉
There is reportedly a higher incidence of tongue tie release in NZ. Whether that is because there is more actual tongue tie, or more awareness and concern for tongue tie release, it is hard to say. Here is an interesting article that poses the ‘for’ and ‘against’ tongue tie release.
If you are worried about your child’s speech, there are a wide range of possibilities that could be causing speech difficulties. Tongue tie will rarely be the cause – either tied or released. Feel free to e-mail or phone me if you would like an assessment for your child.