What Is Tongue Tie?

Tongue Tie - Parenting Guide Article, News from Nanny Options, Dublin

Tongue tie is a condition where your baby is born with his or her tongue attached to the bottom part of the mouth due to a short lingual frenulum. The frenula are little strings of tissue that are in the mouth in various areas. They can be found inside the cheeks, near the molars, under the top lips and also underneath the tongue. These frenula are also helpful when it comes to positioning the teeth of babies.

Tongue tie is also known as ankyloglossia. There are many people who can’t lick their lips, or have troubles with eating and pronouncing words and letters, and are most likely to have tongue tie. Around two percent of babies are affected by this condition. Tongue tie is something that can be diagnosed and treated at an early age if the frenulum loosens on its own and the child can therefore move its tongue freely. But in many cases, surgery is required to release the tongue from the frenulum and this procedure is called frenotomy. If your baby is having some of the following symptoms, it’s probably a good time to take your child to the doctor to get them checked for tongue tie.

What Are the Symptoms of Tongue Tie?

If your baby has tongue tie, you can easily figure it out with these common symptoms:

  • Your baby won’t be able to stick his or her tongue out of their mouth past their lips
  • Your baby won’t be able to touch the top of his or her mouth with the tip of their tongue due to the short lingual frenulum
  • Your baby will not be able to move his or her tongue to the sides and corners of their mouth
  • Your baby’s tongue will most likely have a flat or square tongue tip instead of a pointy tongue tip when it will be extended
  • Your baby’s tongue tip might start to look heart shaped or irregular looking
  • Your baby will have difficulty with breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle if he or she has tongue tie
  • Your baby’s little front teeth at the bottom jaw might have gaps in between them

Why Does My Baby Have Tongue Tie?

As studies have shown research, it is not quite clear yet if tongue tie is inherited or not, but there could be two possible causes why your baby may have tongue tie. The first cause your baby could have tongue tie is because the frenulum is either too short or too tight, or during the development of the child in the womb, it didn’t move back down the tongue and remained attached to the tip of the baby’s tongue. The second cause why your baby may have tongue tie is due to the fact that your baby has a heart shaped tongue tip.

Babies Who Have Tongue Tie and the Feeding Problems That Come Along with It

Some babies who do have tongue tie can actually very easily breastfeed and bottle feed with no issues. But some babies who have tighter tongue ties may have trouble with breastfeeding and also bottle feeding. Many times due to this reason, the baby may have trouble drinking enough breast milk to gain the weight it needs to.

For new born babies it may be difficult to diagnose if they have tongue tie or not. It’s best to consult with your doctor, a lactation consultant or a maternal and child health nurse. Here are a few signs that your baby could have tongue tie from birth:

  • If the mother has tender nipples right after breastfeeding her baby
  • If the mother has a white firm mark on the nipple right after breastfeeding the baby
  • If the baby has a hard time trying to latch onto the nipple
  • If the baby tends to lose suction while breastfeeding and starts to suck air instead of milk
  • If the baby makes a clicking sound from its mouth while breastfeeding
  • If the baby doesn’t gain weight after breastfeeding for some time

Treatment for Babies with Tongue Tie

Sometimes, for many babies, the frenulum automatically loosens up with time over the years and the child can move his or her tongue and can talk properly and also have no issues with eating. Another way to treat tongue tie is by doing a surgery which is called the frenotomy, where the doctor will cut the baby’s tongue tie setting their tongue free to move around and relieving their discomfort. Doctors also like to wait and see what happens over time with the growth of the frenulum and then decide what to do.

What Is a Frenotomy and Is It Safe for My Baby?

A frenotomy is the surgical procedure and medical term that is used for performing to cut a lingual or labial frenulum in the baby’s mouth. The frenotomy procedure can vary from person to person depending on their age. It will be different for babies and different for adults.

For babies who are still younger than just 12 weeks old, the surgical procedure is carried out with a local or topical anaesthesia where the area of surgery is numbed and the baby is held in a firm manner to keep him or her completely still. The frenulum is simply cut and divided with some scissors or a laser technique. Your baby can be immediately breastfed right after the procedure has been finished.

Where to Go

If you think your baby has tongue tie and you want to get him or her checked immediately, you can visit your doctor or paediatrician. You can go to a maternal and child health nurse or a lactation consultant as well. You can even visit a speech pathologist. A dentist, oral health professional or your public oral health service can even tell you if your baby has tongue tie. It is something that can be immediately cured and is not something to worry about, as long as you go see your doctor as soon as possible.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.

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