Why Post-Frenectomy Tongue Exercises Are So Important

In our past couple posts, we’ve looked almost exclusively at the part of frenectomy in which Dr. Evy uses a laser to release a tongue or lip tie. But the process of correcting a tie doesn’t end there – or shouldn’t, at least not if you want to get the best, most lasting results.

The other part is diligently doing the series of exercises that Dr. Evy prescribes for after the procedures – with the help of Mom or Dad in the case of infants, of course.

It’s hard to overemphasize just how important these exercises are. Without them, the risk of relapse goes way up. We’ve seen it repeatedly over the years here in our Austin pediatric clinic: great results when the exercises are done and, often, a need for retreatment when they’re not.

That’s why we take as much time as needed to show you and your child how to do them correctly, stretching the tissues with gentle pressure to effectively support your child’s healing. The exercises are meant to trigger the body to heal those areas by secondary intention, in which the result is a less contracted wound – that is, a reattached tie – and improved range of motion.

The best outcome occurs when patients, especially older children, also get myofunctional exercises before and after surgery. These exercises are intended to retrain the tongue and other orofacial muscles “to create new neuromuscular patterns for proper oral function, including chewing, swallowing, speaking, and breathing.”

Scientific research bears this out.

For instance, a 2020 study in Clinical Pediatrics followed 37 children who underwent frenectomy followed by a course of myofunctional therapy. The young patients ranged in age from 13 months to 12 years. Information was collected by questionnaires that the parents completed before treatment, one week after treatment, and one month after treatment.

“After tongue-tie releases paired with exercises,” wrote the researchers, “most children experience functional improvements in speech, feeding, and sleep.”

Overall, speech improved in 89%, solid feeding improved in 83%, and sleep improved in 83% of patients as reported by parents.

Additionally, half of the kids with speech delays “said new words after the procedure.” Over three-quarters of the slow eaters ate more quickly. Roughly the same proportion of restless sleepers slept more soundly.

That’s impressive – and also in line with what Dr. Evy has observed in her own patients.

Another study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Dentistry for Children, compared results between two randomly assigned groups of children who had their tongue ties released. Only one group was instructed to do isotonic tongue exercises, though. The researcher charged with evaluating the results was not informed as to which group each child had been assigned to.

Those in the group who did the exercises showed significantly more improvement with respect to orofacial, myofunctional movements. They could move their tongues more freely. They could open their mouths wider, including when touching the middle of their palate with the tip of their tongue.

This freedom of movement is precisely why you see improvements in speech, eating, and sleep – and a reminder of just why those exercises are so very important.