North Austin

Tongue Tie & Swallowing Disorders

Our team provides treatment options for tongue tie and swallowing disorders for patients of all ages.

What Is Ankyloglossia (Tongue Tie)?

Ankyloglossia, commonly known as tongue tie, is a condition that is present from birth and limits the tongue’s ability to move freely. It occurs when the lingual frenulum, a band of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is unusually short, thick, or tight. This condition can potentially hinder breastfeeding and make it challenging for an individual to extend their tongue. Furthermore, tongue tie can impact a child’s eating, speaking, and swallowing abilities. While some cases of tongue tie may be asymptomatic, others may necessitate a straightforward surgical intervention to address the issue.

What are the causes & symptoms of tongue tie?

The exact cause of tongue tie remains unknown, although several theories have been proposed. Some suggest a genetic component, while others propose that it is related to fetal development. Tongue tie is most often diagnosed and treated in young children.

The primary symptom commonly associated with tongue tie is difficulty in lateral tongue movement or elevating it to the upper teeth. This can pose challenges in speaking clearly or consuming certain foods. Additionally, tongue tie can result in a distinctive appearance of the tongue, with a notched or heart-shaped appearance when extended.

If you or your child experience any of these symptoms, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. They will diagnose tongue tie and provide recommendations for the most suitable treatment approach. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition and may involve surgical release of the tongue or speech therapy to facilitate proper speech patterns.

What are swallowing disorders?

Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia, are characterized by difficulty swallowing. This can be due to a number of different factors, including structural problems with the mouth or throat, neurological conditions, and certain medical conditions. Swallowing disorders can make it difficult to eat and drink, and can even lead to choking.

What are the types of swallowing disorders?

There are two primary categories of swallowing disorders: dysphagia and odynophagia.

Dysphagia refers to the sensation of food or liquid being regurgitated or feeling stuck in the chest. It can also involve throat coordination issues that result in coughing or choking during swallowing. Dysphagia can stem from nerve or muscle coordination problems, as well as infections or tumors.

Odynophagia entails experiencing pain in the throat or chest while swallowing. It can be triggered by inflammation, infection, or injury to the throat or esophagus. Odynophagia may also indicate more serious conditions like cancer.

Swallowing disorders pose a significant concern as they can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. Additionally, they can increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia, a lung infection that can be life-threatening.

What are the symptoms & causes of swallowing disorders?

Swallowing disorders, also known as dysphagia, are characterized by ongoing difficulties with chewing and swallowing. The primary indicators of swallowing disorders can include: 

  • discomfort during swallowing
  • chest pain
  • a sensation of food or liquid becoming stuck in the throat or chest

Other potential symptoms may include drooling, heartburn, nausea, wheezing, coughing, regurgitation, a sore throat, and a sour taste in the mouth.

Dysphagia can arise from various causes. It may originate in the esophagus and involve factors such as diffuse spasm, inadequate relaxation of the sphincter, weakened esophageal muscles, a narrow esophagus, or an esophageal ring. Other potential causes include the presence of foreign objects, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or the hardening of esophageal muscles. Treatment approaches for dysphagia depend on the underlying cause. In some instances, making simple lifestyle adjustments such as consuming smaller meals or avoiding specific trigger foods may suffice to alleviate symptoms. However, more severe cases may necessitate medication, therapy, or surgical intervention.

What are the treatment options for swallowing disorders?

Treatment for swallowing disorders depends on the underlying cause and where the problem originates. Medication, surgery, and swallowing therapy are the most common types of treatments administered.

Medications such as antacids or muscle relaxants may alleviate dysphagia symptoms. A surgical procedure to stretch or dilate the esophagus when it is too narrow often helps resolve the issue. Swallowing therapy involving chewing and swallowing techniques can help stimulate the muscles and nerves responsible for swallowing. The most severe cases of dysphagia may require a liquid diet or a feeding tube. However, with proper treatment, many people with dysphagia are able to improve their condition and live relatively normal lives.

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