What does tongue tie look like?
During an infant’s development, his or her tongue may display physical characteristics such as a misshapen appearance or shortened length. This is often due to the frenulum causing restriction in its movement by pulling down on its center. The severity of tongue tie can vary, causing difficulty in the precise diagnosis of this condition. A posterior tongue tie that is short and tight is less common, making it a challenging task to identify promptly.
Tongue-tie is a medical condition characterized by a shorter or tighter frenum that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Infants and young children who suffer from this condition are often unable to move their tongues effectively, resulting in complications with breastfeeding and other related issues.
A considerable number of children who have short or tight frenums do not face any complications, hence they are not classified as being tongue-tied.
Tongue-tie is a condition present at birth, known as a congenital issue. The underlying cause of tongue-tie amongst some infants remains uncertain, although it rarely poses a significant concern.
What causes tongue-tie?
During fetal development, the tongue unifies with the floor of the oral cavity. Through a gradual process, separation between these two structures takes place. The outcome is a slim strip of tissue, commonly known as the lingual frenulum, which connects the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.
The development of an infant involves the gradual shrinkage and thinning of the narrow strip of tissue situated beneath the tongue. Conversely, children experiencing ankyloglossia face difficulties with the movement of their tongue due to the persistent thickness of this tissue band.
Tongue Tie Complications
The condition known as tongue-tie has the potential to poorly impact a young infant’s oral development, resulting in detrimental effects on their abilities to eat, talk and swallow.
One instance where tongue-tie may result in:
- Breast-feeding problems: Effective breast-feeding necessitates the proper positioning of a baby’s tongue over the lower gum while nursing. Inability to competently move or maintain the tongue in the correct posture may cause the infant to chew rather than suck on the nipple. Inadequate breastfeeding caused by significant nipple pain can impede a baby’s ability to obtain breast milk, which in turn results in insufficient nutrition and failure to thrive.
- Speech difficulties: Tongue-tie may impede an individual’s capability to produce specific sounds like t, d, z, s, th, r, and l.
- Poor oral hygiene: Tongue-tie among adults or older children can pose difficulty in effectively clearing food particles off the teeth surface, leading to potential tooth decay and gum inflammation (gingivitis). Tongue-tie is a condition that may cause a separation or an opening to develop between the two lower anterior teeth.
- Challenges with other oral activities: Tongue-tie may impede certain actions such as playing a wind instrument, kissing, licking an ice cream cone, or even the simple act of licking one’s lips.
Treatment for tongue-tie
The intention behind tongue-tie treatment is to ensure that your child’s feeding habits, nutritional intake, physical growth, and developmental progress remain unaffected by their condition.
In the case of breastfeeding difficulties, seeking treatment may entail receiving guidance and assistance regarding proper positioning, attachment techniques, frequency of feeds, and milk production.
In the event that your child encounters speech difficulties, it has been recommended to seek assistance from a speech therapist who can aid in fostering their ability to communicate effectively.
In the event that non-surgical treatment methods prove to be ineffective, a minor surgical intervention called a frenectomy may be required. The procedure entails the removal of the frenulum through the use of scissors or a laser.
In the case of newborn babies, a frenectomy procedure is commonly performed without administering anesthesia. Nonetheless, the infant may typically feed normally immediately after the procedure. However, for older infants and children, medical professionals would generally employ general anesthesia to execute the frenectomy procedure.
Consulting with a healthcare expert is crucial in determining if your child requires a frenectomy and identifying the most suitable technique. Undertaking a frenectomy procedure should only be performed by a proficient healthcare professional.
What happens if I don’t treat tongue-tie?
Neglecting to treat moderate to severe instances of tongue-tie can result in complications such as:
- Nutrition deficiencies in infants, resulting from feeding difficulties may lead to inadequate weight gain or malnourishment. When a baby is affected by tongue-tie, breastfeeding could pose more challenges compared to bottle feeding.
- Communication disorders, which may lead to academic difficulties.
- The inability to consume particular food types.