What are Tethered Oral Tissues?

Tethered oral tissues are a group of conditions where the thin pieces of tissue in the mouth (the frenula) that connect the tongue to the floor of the mouth or the lip to the gum are too short, thick, or tight. This restricts the movement of the tongue or lip, affecting functions such as breast-feeding, speech, eating, and even breathing. These conditions are usually present at birth and include ankyloglossia (tongue-tie) and labial frenulum (lip tie). 

Ankyloglossia is the most common type of tethered oral tissue, affecting between 4-10%  of newborns. It occurs when the lingual frenulum, the thin piece of tissue under the tongue, is too short or thick, restricting the tongue's movement. On the other hand, a lip tie occurs when the labial frenulum, the tissue connecting the upper lip to the gums, is too tight or thick, hindering the lip's normal movement. 


Symptoms and Signs of Tethered Oral Tissues


Recognizing tethered oral tissues can be challenging, as symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual's age. In newborns and infants, common signs include difficulty latching during breastfeeding, inadequate weight gain, and fussiness during feeding. As the child grows older, they may exhibit speech difficulties,  challenges in eating certain foods, and dental issues such as cavities and gum disease. 


In adults, tethered oral tissues may present as challenges in speech, particularly with certain sounds and words. They may also experience difficulties in eating certain foods, dental issues, and even sleep apnea. It's important to note that these symptoms can significantly affect an individual's quality of life, leading to frustration, self-esteem issues, and even social isolation. 


Potential Consequences of Untreated Tethered Oral Tissues


If left untreated, tethered oral tissues can have far-reaching consequences. In infants,  these can include failure to thrive due to difficulties in breastfeeding, malnutrition, and delayed motor development. In older children and adults, untreated tethered oral tissues can lead to speech and eating difficulties, poor oral hygiene, and dental issues such as cavities and gum disease. 


Additionally, these conditions can also lead to social and psychological issues. For instance, speech difficulties can lead to bullying in school-aged children, affecting their self-esteem and social skills. In adults, these conditions can affect their professional and personal lives, leading to self-consciousness and social isolation.


Treatment Options for Tethered Oral Tissues


The good news is that tethered oral tissues can be effectively managed with various treatment options. The most common treatment is a simple surgical procedure called a  frenectomy, where the restrictive tissue is released to allow for normal movement. This procedure can be performed using a scalpel or a laser, depending on the practitioner's preference and the individual's specific needs. For infants and small children, laser is of ten preferred due to being quicker, having minimal to no bleeding, resulting in less pain,  and having a shorter recovery. 

Bodywork such as craniosacral therapy is a great addition to care before and after a revision because bodywork can help release whole-body tension from the head to the toe via its impact on fascia. Helping patients reach less tension prior to surgery helps with better outcomes. Other treatment options include speech therapy, occupational therapy and chiropractic therapy, particularly for older children and adults. These therapies can help improve speech and eating difficulties, increase range of motion, and enhance the individual's quality of life. Treatment is individualized, taking into account the individual's age,  the severity of the condition, and their specific needs. 




Tethered oral tissues are a group of conditions where the tongue or lip is restricted due to short, thick, or tight frenula. These conditions can significantly impact an individual's quality of life, affecting their speech, eating, and even breathing. With early recognition and appropriate treatment, these effects can be minimized, improving the individual's overall quality of life. 


For more information on tethered oral tissues, visit Calibration Chiropractic + Functional  Health at our office in Mansfield, Texas. Call (817) 779-3435 to schedule an appointment today.

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