Diagnosing and Treating Tongue-Tie in Babies

Being tongue-tied is never comfortable, but when it’s a physical condition and it involves your child, it could mean they have trouble eating or speaking. The culprit is a band of flesh under the tongue that’s easily treated once it’s diagnosed.

Title: Diagnosing and Treating Tongue-Tie in Babies

For many people, being tongue-tied refers to a function of speech, when someone can’t find the right words for a response. Some are surprised to learn that it’s also the common name for a condition called ankyloglossia, where a band of tissue restricts the motion of the tongue in newborns.

Though it’s not usually a problem, tongue-tie may cause feeding difficulties, and if it goes untreated, it may later interfere with the normal development of speech.

Once diagnosed, treatment for tongue-tie typically follows one of two procedures, one of which is often done during an office visit to Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates. If you notice any symptoms of ankyloglossia in your child, call or click to arrange an exam today.

The lingual frenulum

A band of tissue called the lingual frenulum attaches the bottom of your tongue to the floor of the mouth. When ankyloglossia is present, the lingual frenulum is unusually thick or tight. This restricts the normal range of movement of the tongue. In a newborn, this may prevent the ability to latch onto a nipple or bottle for feeding.

It’s not always an issue, and in some cases no treatment is necessary, even though the lingual frenulum isn’t “normal.” With some children, we at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates may take a “wait-and-see” approach if the irregular lingual frenulum doesn’t create any functional issues.

Identifying tongue-tie

You may be able to observe some of the signs of tongue-tie in your child. Obviously, feeding difficulties have potential urgency, so it’s possible your physician or lactation consultant will discover ankyloglossia when you discuss feeding with them.

A baby with tongue-tie may not be able to stick their tongue out past their front gumline, or its motion upward, downward, and side-to-side may be limited. The tongue may also appear heart-shaped when thrust forward, as the lingual frenulum pulls down on the middle of the tongue.

Make an appointment for an exam if your newborn seems to have difficulty latching to breastfeed. An older child having difficulty with forming certain sounds may also be suffering from tongue-tie, particularly if they are also complaining of tongue issues that interfere with eating or speaking.

Diagnosing tongue-tie

Your Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates caregiver does a simple physical exam, observing the tongue’s range of motion and the lingual frenulum. They’ll assess the severity of the ankyloglossia condition and recommend treatment if it’s necessary.

Tongue-tie surgery

Two procedures are commonly used to treat tongue-tie. The simplest is the frenotomy, usually done in-office and sometimes in the hospital before your baby is released, particularly if tongue-tie inhibits feeding.

Usually done with local anesthesia — there are few nerves or blood vessels in the lingual frenulum — frenotomy simply snips the frenulum to release the tongue’s attachment. If there’s any bleeding, it’s typically a small amount that stops quickly, and there’s little risk of complications.

A frenuloplasty is more complex, performed under anesthesia when the lingual frenulum is too thick or needs additional work. Dissolving stitches are typically used to close incisions. Risk of complications is also low, but there may be scarring or reactions to anesthesia. Older children and adults may be given tongue exercises to reduce scarring and improve tongue function.

The tongue must reach all parts of the mouth to do its job well, so if your baby doesn’t experience a loosening of the lingual frenulum as time goes on, one of these two simple procedures may be necessary. We at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates are happy to advise you.

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