What Causes Tongue Tie?

About 5% of the population is born with tongue tie, the common name for ankyloglossia. While extreme cases are detected during infancy, it’s possible for the condition to cause few issues, allowing a person to adapt. 

Tongue tie could then cause complications later in life, even though the condition is present from birth. Visiting a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist like Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates can determine if your baby has a tongue tie condition that’s likely to cause issues, so it can be treated early before problems develop. 

What causes tongue tie? 

As an embryo develops, the forming tongue is attached to the bottom of the mouth. Closer to birth, the tongue begins to separate untilt there’s only a narrow band of tissue connecting the two. This is called the lingual frenulum, and it can vary in thickness from person to person. 

In some cases, the frenulum is too thick, or else it doesn’t separate sufficiently for normal function. It’s not fully understood why 1 in 20 people is affected, but it’s known that there’s often a genetic connection, as tongue tie runs in some families. 

Common symptoms

If your infant has tongue tie, it may be contributing to feeding difficulties. You may not see their tongue protrude when they’re crying. Or when the tongue is pressed forward, it may have a split or heart-shaped appearance caused by the frenulum pulling back on the central portion of the tongue. There may also be little side-to-side movement of the tongue. 

Adults with tongue tie may notice problems with: 

Since the problem exists from birth, you’ve coped with the condition over your entire lifetime and may not suspect tongue tie when it contributes to problems later in life. 

Treating tongue tie

When the frenulum’s interference with tongue movement is significant enough, surgical treatment may be necessary. A frenotomy gently cuts back the frenulum to increase tongue mobility. This is a simple procedure involving little bleeding and a quick recovery. 

Frenuloplasty is more extensive, necessary when a thickened frenulum needs additional work, such as to close the surgical incision. Complications are rare for either procedure. 

Some infants will experience natural stretching of the frenulum over time, without medical intervention, so it’s natural to observe a case of tongue tie before surgery is recommended. 

Some people may technically have ankyloglossia, but they suffer no symptoms or complications. They, too, may not need surgery unless problems later develop. 

Whether you’re a parent or an ankyloglossia patient yourself, contact Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates by calling their most convenient location in Lawrence or Ottawa to arrange an examination for yourself or your child. 

Your ENT specialist will suggest the best course action. Book your consultation today.  

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