Living with a speech impediment can have an adverse effect on your life and your self- esteem. You may even have felt discriminated against because of your speech problem. When your speech impediment is caused by your frenulum, your issues could be resolved by a relatively simple surgical procedure.
An Explanation of Your Frenulum
A frenulum is a connective tissue. There are several in your mouth. You can feel the frenulum that attaches your upper and lower lips, the labial frenulum, by placing your tongue upwards or downwards between your teeth and your lips. There is a third frenulum, your lingual frenulum, under your tongue. When these connectors are too thick, too tight or too tough, it can cause problems. Some of those complications include:
- Interfering with speech
- Pain from eating or talking
- Excessive salivation
- Creating a space or gap between your front teeth
Your Lingual Frenulum
Your lingual frenulum is a small fold of mucous membrane that attaches the floor of your mouth to the underside of your tongue. It gives your tongue support. If this membrane is too short or thick, it can interfere with the movement of your tongue and the way you articulate speech sounds. When your lingual frenulum is very short, your tongue may not be able to move past the location of your lower teeth. Some people find that a short or tight frenulum, referred to as tongue tie, can cause several physical symptoms. Some of those symptoms, not related to speech, include:
Difficulty Eating and Swallowing
- Difficulty Eating and Swallowing As you chew, a tongue that moves freely within your mouth pushes food towards your esophagus. When the movement of your tongue is restricted, swallowing can be difficult. That’s because your food is not moving towards it’s intended path. In severe cases, this can cause malnutrition, especially if some food textures are avoided due to swallowing difficulties.
Impaired Oral Hygiene
- Impaired Oral Hygiene If you have a short or tight lingual frenulum, food may stay in your mouth longer than necessary. A short frenulum can make it impossible to use the tip of your tongue to clear food debris from your molars or between your teeth. The restriction of your frenulum can also make brushing and flossing your lower teeth difficult. These issues caused by restricted tongue movement can increase your risk of cavities.
- Jaw Pain Your tight frenulum could be interfering with the functioning of your jaw. A tight frenulum can cause you to compensate for different chewing and talking patterns; it can change the way you move your jaw. This can result in temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), a painful jaw joint disorder.
Interferes with Kissing and Other Activities
- Interferes with Kissing and Other Activities Excessive frenulum limitations can make it difficult to french kiss or play a musical instrument. Frenulum correction that frees your tongue may make kissing more enjoyable, even if the condition was not severe enough to warrant treatment as a child.
Can Lead to Sleep Apnea
- Can Lead to Sleep Apnea Tongue tie can impact the development of your mouth and face as you grow into adulthood. This can result in a smaller airway that is prone to collapsing while you sleep. The restriction of your tongue can keep it secured in a lower posture and may even cause abnormal nasal breathing. This increases your risk of developing sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is linked to the increased risk of heart disease, and an extensive list of other health conditions.
How A Tight Frenulum Can Interfere with Speech
A tight frenulum can limit the mobility of your lips and tongue. You may not be able to touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth or stick your tongue out far enough to lick your lips. You may find it difficult to place your tongue in the correct position for some letter sounds. That means a tight frenulum can cause you to lisp.
A lisp refers to the difficulty achieving correct tongue placement to pronounce the sounds represented by the letters z and s. The following are the four types of lisp created by improper tongue placement:
- Interdental lisp – your tongue protrudes between the front teeth directing the airflow forwards, creating a voiceless ‘th” sound in place of the letters z and s.
- Dentalized lisp – your tongue pushes against or rests on your front teeth, creating a muffled sound
- Lateral lisp – your tongue may be placed near the position of creating an “ L” sound, but the air-flow is directed over the sides of your tongue
- Palatal lisp – created by tongue placement issues with the “sh”, “ch”, “dj” and “zh” sounds.
Releasing Your Frenulum with a Frenectomy
The release of the frenulum is called a frenectomy. Your dentist can free your short, thick or tight frenulum with this relatively simple surgical procedure. A lingual frenectomy will free your restricted tongue movement.
Typically with a lingual frenectomy, the area under your tongue is numbed, the tight frenulum is cut or removed, and the incision is closed with dissolvable stitches. The procedure is quick and involves only minor discomfort.
Recovering After Your Frenectomy
You can expect your surgical area to heal within a week, often feeling much better after a few days. Any discomfort is typically managed with an over-the-counter pain relief medication. There may be an insignificant amount of bleeding. This is normal. You will typically be instructed to swab the surgical site gently with hydrogen peroxide to keep it clean. Speech therapy may prove beneficial to retrain your tongue for proper placement during the speech.
There are plenty of people who are quite accepting their speech impediment. Many well-known celebrities incorporate theirs as part of their trademark. For those who feel intervention is necessary, a frenectomy may be your solution.
To learn if a frenectomy could improve your speech, consult your dentist or speech pathologist. In New York, NY, contact, Marc Lazare, DDS, MAGD. Dr Lazare is known by many as a “Dentist to the Stars” and an authority on cosmetic dentistry.