Ankyloglossia is the medical term for tongue-tie, a condition that restricts the normal range of tongue movement for children. It occurs when your child’s lingual frenulum connects the tip of their tongue to the floor of their mouth. For some children, this tissue band may be tight, thick, or short, causing restricted motion.
Tongue-tie doesn’t always cause problems, but there are often issues with oral development when the lingual frenulum doesn’t separate prior to birth. The pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology can quickly confirm that tongue-tie is present before making a recommendation for treatment.
How tongue-tie forms
Normally, the lingual frenulum separates from the tongue before a child is born. It’s not known why this doesn’t happen for some, but the condition can run in families. Tongue-tie tends to affect boys more often than girls.
If your baby has tongue-tie, you may notice that tongue movement seems restricted. Your child may not be able to touch their tongue to the upper teeth, or they may not be able to stick their tongue out beyond their lower front teeth. A notch may appear in the tip when they press their tongue forward.
Problems that can occur if your child has tongue-tie
A child with tongue-tie may have few complications from the condition, or a unique combination of symptoms. Some of the most common include:
Often, the first complication caused by tongue-tie is difficulty latching during breastfeeding. Tongue-tie might prevent the proper motion for sucking, through which the tongue must cover the lower gum arch. With the tongue unable to reach forward, the gums bite onto the nipple rather than sucking from it. This can lead to inadequate feeding and issues with nutrition in early life.
Your child may seem hungry despite long feeding times. They may fuss while feeding, while producing clicking sounds. Weight gain doesn’t happen as expected. Extended feeding times may be followed by a short break before they want to feed again.
This can create problems for the mother, including pain during and following breastfeeding, cracked or sore nipples, low milk supply, or an inflammation of the breast called mastitis.
As your child learns to speak, tongue-tie interferes with the creation of certain sounds, including the letters D, L, N, R, S, T, and Z, as well as the TH combination. They also might not be able to make a rolling R sound.
Oral hygiene challenges
Limited tongue motion affects your child’s ability to sweep food debris from their mouth. This can lead to gum inflammation, called gingivitis, and tooth decay. Some children with tongue-tie develop gaps between the middle pair of teeth at the front bottom.
When tongue-tie complications are severe, your doctor may recommend surgery to release the tongue. It’s a simple procedure that produces little pain or bleeding, and it is often done in a medical office setting. Not all cases of tongue-tie require surgery though, and the frenulum may loosen naturally over time.
Call the nearest of our two offices to schedule a consultation. Together with your specialist, you can decide on the best course of action for your child. Book an appointment today.