7558897 - cat got your tongue illustration

7558897 – cat got your tongue illustration


Ever get tongue-tied while speaking and someone asks you if the “cat got your tongue?”  Did you know that there is actually a condition called “tongue-tie?”  The official name for tongue-tie is ankyloglossia.  Ankyloglossia is when a short, thick, tight band of tissue (the lingual frenulum) limits tongue movement.

Correct Tongue Position

The tongue needs to be in a specific position in the mouth when we are not eating or speaking.  The correct resting position of the tongue is at the top of the mouth, about ½ inch behind the front teeth. Your entire tongue should be pressed against the roof of your mouth.  Your lips should be closed and your teeth should be slightly apart.

Why Does the Tongue Need to Maintain a Correct Resting Position?

Tongue position affects the development of our face, jaw, palate, dental arch, teeth and sinuses.  The tongue helps us to eat, speak and swallow.  Correct tongue position allows air to flow freely.

Incorrect Tongue Position

Many people rest their tongue at the bottom of their mouth, pushing against the bottom teeth.  This incorrect position affects the development of the face, jaw, palate, dental arch and sinuses.  If the narrow palate is from an incorrect tongue position, then the sinuses will be narrow, and breathing will be difficult.  When the tongue is resting at the bottom of the mouth, it can obstruct the airway.

What Happens When Air Flow is Blocked?

In an incorrect position, the tongue blocks air flow.  If the airflow is blocked, the brain sends a signal that it is not getting enough oxygen.  The sympathetic nervous system kicks into fight or flight mode.  The adrenal glands release stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.  If this activity continues throughout the night, the body cannot return to the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us relax and get to sleep.  Lack of sleep can cause various problems such as intellectual, behavioral and emotional issues.

When Do Medical Professional Check for a Tongue-Tie?

Years ago, the lingual frenulum was automatically checked at birth.  If the frenulum did not thin and recede before birth, midwives would use their fingernails to snip through this webbing.  Today, doctors usually do not check this webbing unless the mother is having trouble breastfeeding.  However, a tongue-tie can lead to many other issues.

Types of Issues that Can be Caused by Tongue-Tie

(these issues can be caused by other things, too, not just tongue-tie)

ADD/ADHD (possibly due to poor sleep because of blocked airway)




Breathing issues (especially at night)

Clicking jaws

Crooked teeth

Crowded teeth

Dental arch and palate not developed correctly

Dental fillings

Dentures do not stay in place


Deviated septum


Grinding/clenching of teeth to open airway


Incorrect development of mouth, jaw, face, teeth and sinuses

Inflamed gums

Jaw pain


Mouth breathing

Neck pain

Overbite, underbite or crossbite

Poor swallowing

Shoulder pain

Sleep apnea

Sleeping with mouth open


Speech problems

TMJ disorders

Tooth extractions


Exercises for Tongue-Ties:

These exercises can be done four times a day, repeated 10 times during each session.   This myofunctional therapy should be performed daily for at least two years to have maximum benefit.

Exercise 1: Push Up the Tongue

Place the tip of the tongue against the roof of your mouth, just behind the top teeth. Push upwards. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 2: Touch Nose

Stick out your tongue.  Try to touch the tip of your nose.  Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 3: Touch Chin

Stick out your tongue.  Try to lick the bottom of your chin. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 4: Push Tongue Left

Stick out your tongue. Move it to the left as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 5: Push Tongue Right

Stick out your tongue. Move it to the right as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 6: Roll Tongue

Fold your tongue so it looks like a taco shell. Stick your tongue out as far as you can while keeping it folded. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 7: Click the Tongue

Click your tongue against the roof of the mouth for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 8: Push the Tongue Against a Spoon

Push the tip of your tongue firmly against a spoon for 10 seconds. Keep the tongue straight. Do not let the spoon point downwards. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 9: Hold a Spoon

Place the handle of a metal spoon between your lips. Hold it in place with your lips (not your teeth) for 10 seconds.  Keep the spoon parallel to the floor.  Repeat 10 times.


Treatments for Tongue-Ties:

Several treatments are available for tongue-ties. (1) You can do various exercises on your own. (2) You can work with a physical therapist who is specially trained in myofunctional therapy (muscular exercises of the tongue and lips).  (3) Some dentists are trained to perform a tongue frenuloplasty with follow-up myofunctional therapy. (4) An ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) can also perform a tongue frenuloplasty. (5) Speech and language therapists specialize in myofunctional therapy.  If you think you may have a tongue-tie, consult your medical professional.

This information is not to be used in the diagnosis of any condition.  Please consult your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.