Tongue Function & Health Issues: Part 2

April 13, 2018 Chelsea Erickson DDS

When the tongue can’t function properly (especially the middle portion), a cascade of events can happen. This is a very important point because many assess proper tongue function by mobility alone, but this does not uncover a posterior tongue restriction.

Assessing a tongue by how far a child or adult can move it is simply not enough. The middle portion of the tongue must be addressed because it is the biggest driver in normal development.

Tongue Restriction or Dysfunction

Following the Functional Matrix theory, if there is a tongue restriction or dysfunction while in utero and the tongue cannot reach the palate, the facial muscles will be the biggest factor shaping the palate. This  results in a high, vaulted palate at birth.

In infancy, a lack of function may lead to an inability to nurse properly or create a proper seal. This can be worsened by a high vaulted palate. If the palate is not stimulated, oxytocin release is limited and the facial muscles continue to be the largest influence on the shape of the palate. Symptoms of this problem can show up in both mom and baby immediately or a few days after birth. They can include: 

  • Swallowing too much air resulting in: gassiness, reflux, spitting up, colic, getting “full” on air, or not draining breast, which leads to frequent feedings.
  • Increased effort needed to eat, so falling asleep when nursing, short nursing sessions, and poor sleeping/frequent waking.  
  • Excessive non-nutritive sucking/thumb sucking to stimulate palate and release oxytocin.
  • Incorrect latch, which can be painful and lead to cracking/bleeding nipples or not fully draining breast, which leads to mastitis, etc.  

So many times, a “simple” answer to these problems would be switching to bottles or special formula and/or reflux medications instead of addressing the real issue. This is all too often missed by the medical field. When the underlying dysfunction goes untreated because the symptoms have been pacified by those treatments, the dysfunction continues and more symptoms develop.


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Chelsea Erickson DDS

Dr. Chelsea Erickson Dr. Chelsea Erickson Dr. Erickson is a North Dakota native who grew up near the Turtle Mountains in Bottineau, North Dakota. She attended the University of North Dakota and graduated with Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 2006. She then attended Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska where she graduated with her degree as a Doctor of Dental Surgery in 2010. She and her husband moved back to the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks area to be near family and friends. They have three children who keep them very busy. She comes from a medical background and knew from an early age she wanted to become a medical professional. After job shadowing several different medical careers she chose dentistry. Dr. Erickson felt that dentistry was right for her for several reasons. Most importantly, of the many medical fields she observed she felt the dental profession had the privilege of getting to know their patients very well. It also grants practitioners the benefit of autonomy where decisions about treatment are made based on the patients needs and not dictated by a governing hospital or insurance company. Dentistry also provides regular hours allowing her to enjoy more time being a mother and wife. She has been continuing her education by attending the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, Florida. She has been working through their five continuums and also has completed training to become an Invisalign provider.

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