A six-year-old boy in Texas is speaking clearly for the first time after a regular visit to the dentist’s office.
For years, parents of Mason Motz thought their son was nonverbal due to an earlier diagnosis of Sotos syndrome, a genetic condition that can cause “overgrowth and developmental delays” in children, the Sotos Syndrome Support Association of Canada noted.
Speaking with the New York Times last week, Mason’s mother, Meredith Motz, said her son would make noises, but couldn’t fully pronounce words.
“He could pronounce the beginning of the word but would utter the end of the word,” she said. “My husband and I were the only ones that could understand him.”
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But this all changed after she took her son to a routine dentist appointment in spring of 2017 with pediatric dentist Dr. Amy Luedemann-Lazar. Lazar, who had been performing other procedures on the young boy’s teeth, noticed the tissue (lingual frenulum) under his tongue was shorter than average — in other words, he was literally tongue-tied.
She also noticed it was attached close to the tip of his tongue, not allowing him a full range of motion with the organ.
Lazar asked the Motz family if she could use a laser to untie his tongue, a procedure that would only take 10 seconds. The parents agreed and after his surgery, Motz said her son spoke a full sentence for the first time.
“I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. Can we watch a movie?” he said. “We’re sitting here thinking, ‘Did he just say that?’” Motz told the paper. “It sounded like words.”
‘Tongue-tied’ has various stages
Dr. David Stevenson, president of the Ontario Dental Association, told Global News tongue-tied or ankyloglossia has various stages and generally occurs in 10 per cent of people of all ages. Often, it is common among infants because it is first diagnosed by lactation specialists or pediatricians, before infants have teeth.
“The frenulum can be too thin or too tight but it doesn’t necessarily cause a problem,” he explained. “Your tongue is like any muscle in our body and it needs to be able to move in a full range.”
He added the tongue not only helps us with speech, but it also plays a role in how we swallow, eat, breathe and even how our jaw and teeth position themselves. And depending on how minor or severe the condition is, it can impact all of these things.
If the frenulum is narrow or thin, a procedure to remove it is simple, often done with scissors, lasers or a scalpel. Sometimes, the tissue is thicker, and requires not only cutting but shaping under an anesthetic.
“One thing I would remind all parents and patients is once the procedure is completed, move your tongue around.”
Tips for parents
And as mentioned before, parents and health-care providers can usually pinpoint if your child is tongue-tied at an early age. But more importantly, Stevenson said parents should always keep an eye on how their child uses their tongue.
“Parents can watch and observe their child’s behaviour,” he continued. “Are they having trouble speaking? Swallowing? Sometimes this can influence whether or not a child can even swallow.”
He adds a test parents can try at home is to see if their child can stick their tongue beyond their lips. If they can’t, it may be helpful to speak to a health-care professional.