Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, is a medical problem that occurs when the small piece of tissue that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, called the lingual frenulum, is too short and binds the tongue too tightly to the mouth. While people who suffer from this oral tissue irregularity are typically born with it, it often goes undiagnosed until it begins causing problems in a baby, child, or adult's life. The most severe cases of tongue-tie are often detected in newborns when they have difficulty suckling when breast-fed. However, some babies born with tongue-tie have no problems breastfeeding, and the problem is only noticed once it begins to affect the child's life in another way, such as when it impairs speech. It is important, however, to have tongue-tie treated as soon as possible once it is diagnosed, and treatment is very simple today. Read onto find out how to determine if your child may be experiencing akyloglossia and what the safest treatment option is today.
Tongue Tie Symptoms in Babies
Symptoms of tongue-tie vary from child to child due to the fact that every case of the disorder is different. Lingual frenulum irregularities vary widely, and just a few examples of these irregularities include a frenulum that is short, yet does not ascend toward the front of the tongue any more than usual, and a frenulum that is short and extends all the way to the tip of the tongue. As you can imagine, this makes some cases of tongue-tie easily detectable just by sight, while some cases more difficult to detect.
Babies who do display symptoms of tongue-tie (although not all do), typically experience problems breast feeding. They may have difficulty latching onto the breast at all, or they may frequently bite their mother in attempt to get more milk than they are able to suckle. As you can imagine, a baby with undiagnosed tongue-tie can fail to grow at a healthy rate due to difficulty getting the nutrition they need.
Tongue Tie Symptoms in Children
A baby born with tongue-tie who does not experience difficulty when breast feeding (or who is bottle fed, which is much easier for infants with ankyloglossia), can grow into a child who begins to show signs of the oral abnormality when they begin to speak. While there are various causes for speech impediments, you should begin to suspect that tongue-tie is causing the problem if your child has difficulty pronouncing the following sounds that can only be spoken clearly with a freely moving tongue: the "th" sound in the, the "l" sound in lion, and the "r" sound in red. Other letters difficult for children with tongue-tie to sound out include s, z, n, and d.
As you can imagine, it is very important to have tongue-tie diagnosed and corrected as soon as it is detected. Once your child becomes used to pronouncing specific letters or letter combinations in an unusual way, since they simply cannot pronounce them properly, the habit will become more difficult to break the longer it continues. Undiagnosed tongue-tie can also lead to oral health problems, an aversion to eating specific foods, lack of self-esteem, and behavior problems at home and in school.
The Safest Treatment Option for Tongue-Tie Today
As with many types of surgery, as technology has progressed, new treatment options have developed to treat tongue-tie. The classic way to loosen a tongue that is too tightly secured to the bottom of the mouth is to make an incision with a scalpel or scissors directly into the frenulum to cut the tongue loose. This procedure is called a frenectomy. While this procedure is still in use today, it is most commonly performed in the hospital when a baby is born with severe tongue-tie and needs their tongue quickly cut loose to begin feeding. Like most surgeries performed with scalpels, complications can include excess bleeding and infection. Additional potential complications include salivary gland or tongue damage and the frenulum reattaching to the tongue, which essentially reverses the procedure.
The modern procedure used to treat tongue-tie is called a laser frenectomy. This procedure is typically performed with a soft-tissue laser, and the laser actually vaporizes the excess tissue instead of simply cutting through it. This offers many advantages over a frenectomy performed with a scalpel:
- The laser seals off the blood vessels as it passes through the tissue, which leads to no bleeding.
- The laser seals nerve-endings, so little pain is experienced.
- There is a much lower risk of swelling and infection after a laser frenectomy.
- Laser frenectomy is less likely to leave a scar.
Another advantage of the laser frenectomy is that it can be performed right in a dentist's office. This can be much more comfortable for a child who is used to having oral work performed by a dentist and not a family doctor.
If your baby, toddler, or older child is showing signs of tongue tie, then it is very important to have the condition diagnosed and treated before it impacts their life any further. Once you contact a dentist skilled in performing laser frenectomies, you can have their problem treated quickly and easily without as much worry of potential complications that are more likely to occur when the procedure is performed with a scalpel or scissors. Click to find out more information.