Ankyloglossia, more commonly known as a tongue tie, is a condition where the tongue is tethered to the floor of the mouth by a short, thickened strip of tissue. It is estimated that less than one percent to as high as ten percent of newborns have this condition. The reason for such a large range in estimates is the lack of diagnostic criteria for tongue tie.
What Causes a Tongue Tie?
Ankyloglossia is a congenital condition, meaning it is present at birth. The lingual frenulum is a membrane that runs from the bottom of the tongue and attaches to the floor of the mouth. This tissue typically separates before birth and allows the tongue to move freely. However, in some babies, the lingual frenulum is too thick or short and does not separate. This causes the tongue to be tethered. Ankyloglossia can sometimes run in families and is more common in males than females. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but certain genetic factors may play a role.
The Common Signs of a Tongue Tie
If the lingual frenulum tethers the tongue too tightly to the floor of the mouth, it may cause issues with breast or bottle feeding. In addition, if your child has a tongue tie, it may impact how they eat, speak, and swallow. Those with ankyloglossia often have a challenging time sounding out the “d,” “l,” “s,” “t,” “r,” “th,” and “z” sounds.
Other common signs of ankyloglossia include:
- Difficulty moving the tongue from side to side
- Having trouble lifting the tongue to the upper teeth
- Trouble sticking the tongue out past the lower gum line
- A tongue that appears heart-shaped when stuck out
If you notice your baby is having trouble breastfeeding, making clicking noises while nursing, or has difficulty latching onto the nipple, they may have a tongue tie. This may lead to sore or cracked nipples and cause slow weight gain for your baby. Furthermore, this condition may also cause poor oral hygiene in older children because the tongue cannot properly clear food debris from the teeth.
How is a Tongue Tie Diagnosed?
If you suspect your child has a tongue tie, the first step is to have your child’s tongue evaluated. Their doctor will look for signs of the condition and ask about your child’s symptoms. It is recommended for your child to have their tongue evaluated in the early stages of infancy to avoid any developmental restrictions. The procedure is relatively quick and straightforward and has a low rate of complications. Therefore, the wait-and-see approach is not recommended.
How to Treat a Tongue Tie
If your child has been diagnosed with a tongue tie, there are two surgical options available to treat it. A frenotomy is the most common procedure, while a frenuloplasty is a more extensive procedure usually done if the lingual frenulum is especially thick.
A frenectomy is a quick and simple outpatient procedure that may be done with or without anesthesia. During a frenectomy, a doctor will examine the lingual frenulum and clip it with sterile scissors releasing the tongue. Most infants do not feel any pain or discomfort. This is because there are very few nerve endings and blood vessels in the lingual frenulum. The procedure usually takes less than a minute, and your child will be able to breast or bottle feed immediately after the surgery.
Treat Your Child’s Tongue Tie at ChildSmiles•FamilySmiles
ChildSmiles•FamilySmiles provides a wide range of pediatric primary care and dental services for children of all ages, including lip and tongue tie evaluations. During your child’s appointment, we will examine your child’s mouth and tongue to determine if they have a tongue tie.
If your child is diagnosed with ankyloglossia, our maxillofacial surgery department offers frenectomy procedures. Once completed, our team will continue to monitor your child’s progress and make sure their oral health is on track. Schedule an evaluation at ChildSmiles•FamilySmiles today.