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The science of oral myofunctional therapy is long and withstanding on an international level within the fields of dentistry and speech pathology

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Dr Ankita Shah, Founder, Dentician and The Tongue Tie & Sleep Institute in an interaction with Express Healthcare explains about tongue tie concept and its diagnosis and treatment

Is tongue tie a new concept?

Tongue Tie is not a new concept at all, there has been a lot of awareness created in western countries. There have been references of this treatment being performed in the Bible and even in the 18th century where the midwives used their fingernails to divide the lingual frenulum in babies to help them breastfeed. The only thought that has changed is we are recognising major shifts and changes post a Tongue tie release. We are also witnessing potential consequences of untreated Tongue Ties later in life: be it towards eating, sleeping, breathing, speech, orofacial growth, dental development, body postures. Nothing is more powerful than what our eyes have seen and witnessed. As rightly said by DH Lawrence: “What the eye doesn’t see and the mind doesn’t know, doesn’t exist!”

How can diagnosing and treating tongue ties impact the way healthcare is treating medical problems?

Patients say that tongue tie release and myofunctional therapy has been life changing. There are some Tongue Tie support groups on Facebook which have more than 16000 members and most of them report improvements in everything from migraines, headaches, neck tension, shoulder and back pain, nasal congestion, anxiety to even bowel movements. There are also some Breastfeeding Support groups where mothers who are struggling through breastfeeding have found immense relief with a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to tongue ties. Looking at the number of people who have benefited from these treatments and the kind of problems its resolving, we as healthcare professionals have to lead the way and provide services that go above and beyond the standard of care for our patients.

Why is airway health so important for our healthcare industry to understand?

For breath is life, and if you breathe well, you will live long on earth. Western research on Airway Health & Myofunctional Therapy is now proving what Yogis have known all along: Nasal breathing and correct tongue posture can deliver powerful mind and body benefits. When they said a good night’s sleep is the remedy to everything, they weren’t lying. It’s difficult to judge the quality of your sleep based on the quantity alone. When you breathe through the mouth instead of the nose, or snore, here are some signs and symptoms to look out for in adults: Constant fatigue, anxiety, diabetes, obesity, clenching/grinding of teeth, jaw pain, neck and shoulder stiffness, snoring, sleeping with an open mouth, high blood pressure, brain fog, inability to work/concentrate, feeling sleepy all the time despite getting a significant amount of sleep. As healthcare professionals we daily come across these symptoms and it’s very important we all need to start paying attention to our airway health.

How is sleep apnea related to dentistry?

The answer comes from even a simple look at the anatomy of the human airway. The entire jaw, tongue and mouth structure lies right in front of the airway, and how we treat the jaw and mouth structure can profoundly affect the function of the airway. Any restriction in vital airflow in the form of mouth breathing snoring or sleep apnea prevents you from transitioning into the deep stages of sleep which is critical to repair and regeneration of cells, energy, hormone and immune functions and many more. For this reason, the way our faces and jaws grow is the largest factor in how healthy our airway will form.

The concept Myofunctional therapy is relatively new to India, how is this therapy trending globally?

Myofunctional therapy is an individualised exercise therapy for the muscles of the face, tongue, neck. The science of Oral Myofunctional Therapy is long (approximately over 50yrs) and withstanding on an international level within the fields of dentistry and speech pathology. Through some fun exercises, you can establish nasal breathing and correct the posture of your body and tongue, improve sleep apnea and clenching, stabilise your TMJ/ Jaw Joint, correct alignment of teeth and many more advantages. Kourtney Kardashian uses the therapy to improve her tongue dexterity while Hollywood’s favourite couple, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen decided to go for a myofunctional therapy for their child for a tongue-tie release surgery.

Why do you think there’s a lack of awareness about tongue ties and sleep in India?

A lot of health professionals in India are still not educated and trained to identify these disorders. Very high quality of published scientific articles favor tongue ties, sleep apnea and myofunctional therapy. Like any other treatments, Myofunctional therapy & Tongue Tie Release (Functional Frenuloplasty) is validated safe and effective when performed as per the carefully tested safety guidelines and protocols by appropriately trained providers. As Dr. Wayne Dyers states: “The ultimate ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about and refuse to investigate.

Why should our pediatric healthcare doctors examine airway health and sleep disorders in children?

Snoring at any age is not normal. The last decade has seen a major rise in children and adults suffering from mouth breathing, snoring and sleep apnea. Science and research suggests that narrow jaws and airway is a modern phenomenon. 60% – 70% of children suffer from mouth breathing. 30% of children aged 2-6 yrs and 50% of children who are diagnosed with ADHD actually suffer from sleep disorders and most of them don’t know it. Some children may have compromised airways resulting from poorly developed oral cavities, which often go undiagnosed. In children all pediatric healthcare professionals daily come across symptoms of unhealthy sleep like: An inability to concentrate/hyperactivity, Having limited attention span with symptoms that mimic ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Bedwetting, Childhood obesity, Speech defects, Sleeping with an open mouth (mouth breathing), Frequent tossing and turning in bed, Clenching/grinding of teeth, Frequent cold and cough, Eating food for longer hours/picky eating, Recurrent tonsil and adenoids, Thumb sucking.

What is the global perspective on airway health, tongue ties and myofunctional therapy?

Globally the field of airway health, tongue ties and myofunctional therapy has progressed and has helped a myriad of people. There are so many patient support groups on Facebook where tonnes of patients are suffering from problems related to airway health, TMJ and tongue ties and are looking out for providers who can treat them.

What are the latest research advancements in this vertical?

An outstanding amount of research has been published to focus on precision differential diagnosis which helps professionals to better understand and identify where the patient’s challenges are stemming from. The latest researches help professionals analyse the airway, if there are any problems stemming from tongue ties, tongue tone, tongue space or a combination thereof. There is enough literature showing the success of myofunctional therapy for helping patients with sleep apnea, TMJ and tongue ties.

What do experts from our healthcare industry have to say about these concepts?

Dr Ankita Shah, Director and Founder of The Tongue Tie & Sleep Institute, India shares her insight that; “The last decade has started to see this hidden epidemic of jaws, airway and sleep. For her dentistry is not just about your smile, but your complete emotional, mental and physical well-being.”  The roof of the mouth is the floor of the nose. Breathing is the bridge which connects dentistry and one’s overall health. She wishes to change the way in which medicine has approached problems in the past and provide patients with a redefined experience to dentistry.

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