How Tongue Ties and Lip Ties Lead to Snoring and Sleep Apnea

When tongue ties and lip ties are mentioned, it’s typically in the context of baby breastfeeding woes, but did you know that the same issues left unchecked could lead to snoring and sleep apnea in older children and adults?

At birth, the tongue is normally high in the palate and the continuous activity of nursing, swallowing and eating leads to standard oral growth. The first activity — nursing — is said to be nature’s palatal expander, creating broad and spacious nasal and sinus passages for easy breathing.

However, when a child is born with a tongue tie or lip tie, movement inside the mouth is limited and can create a host of issues.

What are tongue ties and lip ties?

Tongue tie occurs when an abnormally short frenulum keeps the tongue tethered down lower in the mouth. A lip tie is an atypically tight labial frenulum that keeps the upper lip tethered to the gum line.

Both conditions are called “tethered oral tissues,” and they are fairly common. Anterior tongue ties occur in up to 10 percent of the population, and posterior tongue ties have been seen in up to 32.5 percent of infants.

The risk of sleep apnea

Over time, tongue ties and lip ties can cause growth problems inside the mouth, including dental misalignment, smaller roof of mouth and reduced upper airway space — eventually leading to an increased possibility the airway will collapse during sleep.

All of the above may develop into sleep apnea, which is defined as repeated interrupted breathing during sleep.

Additionally, untreated lip ties can block the mouth from sealing, leading to a reliance on mouth breathing. Children who mouth-breathe at night often snore and never experience the deepest level of sleep and wake up tired. Furthermore, when you do not develop nose breathing at a young age, your airways and jaws do not develop properly, thus furthering the risk of sleep apnea.

Disordered nasal breathing can also happen to the tongue-tied because of inadequate tongue pressure on the palate during infancy. The lack of pressure leads to smaller nasal cavities and deviated septum. If you or your child have tethered oral tissues and suspect your sleep is suffering as a result, schedule an appointment with Dr. Marc Kayem to find a solution to your unique situation. Dr. Kayem is an renowned otolaryngologist with a proven track record of results, regularly offering relief from snoring, sleep apnea and recurrent pain to children and adults alike.