What Is Tongue-Tie?

Parents who have never dealt with an infant with tongue tie most likely do not even know what this condition is. However, parents who have dealt with it know how frustrating and demoralizing it can be until it is repaired. Tongue tie can significantly affect breastfeeding, eating, and speech if it is not resolved before the infant gets into the toddler stage. Infants and toddlers with tongue tie often have difficulty sucking, chewing and licking, and children who grow up with this condition often have difficulty being understood when they speak.

Diagnosing & Treating Tongue-Tie

Once, tongue tie was only determined to be medically problematic if the infant could not receive proper nourishment. However, today, practitioners recognize that it is always a problem that should be addressed as soon as it is recognized. With tongue tie, an infant is born with its tongue anchored more firmly to the bottom of the mouth than usual. Specifically, the lingual frenum is malformed and limits the movements of the tongue. Because not all tongue ties have the same characteristics, they can be difficult to spot except by trained professionals. Additionally, they can change slightly as the child ages, meaning that an infant’s tongue tie will look different that it does in the same child as he ages.

Diagnosis of a tongue tie is made on several variables. First, of course, is the appearance of the tongue and how well it can move in the mouth. In older children, this would be confirmed with difficulty pronouncing sounds at the front of the mouth. Other diagnostics include prolonged drooling, inability to feed, low weight gain and breastfeeding issues. While a lactation consultant is often able to help with some of the issues of breastfeeding, the best option is to have the tongue tie surgically repaired.

There are four major surgical options for tongue tie, and the one that is chosen depends on the age of the child and the skill and opinion of the doctor. For young infants, snipping off the frenum may be all that is needed for the child to heal successfully. Other options include surgical revision while under general anesthesia or laser or electrocautery revision under local anesthesia. Infants with tongue tie often breastfeed better immediately upon having the frenum snipped. Parents with questions about breastfeeding issues, tongue tie or surgical options for tongue tie are encouraged to chat with Dr. Matney.

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