The Connection between Tongue Ties and Sleep Apnea

Categories: Sleep Disorders

tongue tie and sleep apneaScotts Valley, Santa Cruz CA

Do you know what a restricted lingual frenum is? This phrase is the technical term for a tongue tie. This occurs when the lingual frenum—also known as the band of tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth—is either too short or too thick. Approximately 10% of babies are born with a tongue-tie. Once this restriction is identified, it often is released by performing a frenectomy. Living with a tongue tie can have a host of consequences on your oral and overall health, but did you know that a tongue tie can also lead to sleep apnea? Find out how by reading this article from Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry.

Get the facts on tongue ties and sleep apnea

When you live with a tongue tie, it means your tongue has a restricted range of motion. Tongue ties can affect your ability to swallow, speech, and airway and jaw development. The longer a person lives with a tongue tie, the more issues they experience.

Sleep apnea, or obstructive sleep apnea, is one of the most serious and well-known sleep-breathing disorders. A person with sleep apnea experiences airway blockages while sleeping. These blockages either impede breathing or disrupt airflow. Each of these interruptions in breathing is known as an apneic event. The oxygen levels in the blood diminish, and eventually, the brain sends signals to the body to resume normal breathing. This ends the deep sleep cycle, even though in the vast majority of apneic events, the patient never consciously wakes.

Two ways that a tongue tie raises the risk for sleep apnea

Habitual mouth breathing

Mouth breathing is a common consequence of living with a tongue tie. This is when someone frequently breathes through the mouth—rather than through the nose, as recommended. Mouth breathing can be a precursor to sleep apnea. People who breathe through the mouth are more likely to snore or experience enlargement of the tonsils, which can obstruct the airway during sleep—thus creating one of the blockages that lead to sleep apnea.

Poor resting position of the tongue

Proper oral resting posture is an important part of maintaining harmony in the orofacial system. This posture means that, when you are not eating or speaking, your mouth should rest with the teeth closed, lips closed, and the tongue resting gently against the roof of the mouth—also known as the palate.

Living with a tongue tie alters the resting position of the tongue, forcing it lower in the mouth, resulting in open mouth posture and mouth breathing. This hinders the proper development of the palate, which can lead to narrower dental arches, restricting the amount of room available for the nasal passageways and causing a narrow airway that leads to sleep apnea or snoring. The tongue also can slide back in the airway during sleep, creating obstructions that lead to an apneic event.

Releasing your tongue-tie

As mentioned above, if you or a member of your family has a tongue tie, it can be released by performing a frenectomy. This procedure can be completed quickly and conveniently through the use of our LightScalpel laser. This precise dental laser technology can release a tongue tie in a matter of seconds. If an older child or an adult is living with a tongue tie, a course of myofunctional therapy may be needed to correct any negative oral habits that developed as a consequence of the limited range of motion in the tongue.

Treating tongue ties and sleep apnea in Los Gatos, Scotts Valley, and Santa Cruz, California

Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry prides itself on offering a range of different services to our patients. We can provide help for those living with a tongue tie and also treat individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea. Our preferred method of sleep apnea treatment is oral appliance therapy. To learn more about either our frenectomy procedures or our program of sleep apnea treatment, schedule a consultation at our office today by calling (831) 438-4411.