In a typical baby, the frenulum (tissue that secures tongue to the bottom of the mouth) separates from part of the tongue, allowing the tongue to move freely. In cases when it doesn’t separate, it is referred to as tongue tie, also known as ankyloglossia. This can cause issues with speech, eating and dental hygiene. It tends to more common among boys than girls, and the causes are mainly attributed to genetic abnormalities. Fortunately, treatment is quick and pain-free in most cases.
Symptoms of Tongue Tie
- Trouble sticking the tongue out – If your child has difficulty sticking their tongue out and/or moving it side to side, they may need treatment.
- Speech impediment – In certain cases, the tongue tie can prevent proper pronunciation of sounds like “l”, “s”, “t”, “d”, “z”, “th”, and “r.”
- Breast feeding difficulties – Babies with this condition may have trouble latching onto their mother’s nipple, and they may only be able to chew instead of suck on the nipple.
- Difficulty eating and swallowing – Free motion of the tongue allows kids to eat properly as well as swallow. They may complain of trouble swallowing or chewing if they have tongue tie.
- Inadequate oral hygiene – Often times older kids with tongue tie cannot reach their back teeth to sweep away food debris after eating. This can cause a buildup of plaque which can lead to tooth decay.
Tongue tie is often no cause for alarm. Treatment can be done without any anesthesia, just a numbing agent. Babies that are born with tongue tie are recommended to have one of the following procedures to treat their condition:
- Frenotomy – This is a procedure that requires the frenulum (the tissue that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) to be snipped, allowing the tongue to move in a normal range of motion. A frenotomy can be done in a doctor’s office quickly and painlessly.
- Frenuloplasty – If the frenulum is thicker than usual, a frenuloplasty is done under anesthesia with surgical tools. Following a frenuloplasty, tongue exercises may need to be done to recover with a full range of motion.
Going forward, the prognosis for tongue tie that is treated properly is good. Most babies and older kids gain full and complete use of their tongues following treatment.
Advanced Children’s Dentistry is a pediatric dental office that provides an educational and calm environment for dental care. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Sybil Padavathil at 516-758-KIDS.