What Does it Mean to be Tongue-Tied?

When we hear the term tongue-tie, it's usually a humorous way to express that we are so excited or nervous that we can't speak. Surprisingly, tongue-tie is an actual a physical condition known as Ankyloglossia and is quite common.

Tongue tie is a congenital anomaly caused by a shortened lingual frenulum. The lingual frenulum is the tight, thick band of tissue under the tongue that controls its movement and range of motion. When this tissue is compromised, it can cause a decrease in the functions it was intended for, such as speech and feeding. These conditions can be serious in some individuals if left untreated.

What are the Symptoms of Tongue-Tie?

Many babies born with tongue tie do not experience symptoms right away. Since the tissue of the lingual frenulum stretches as the child grows, in some cases, the child will adapt to the restrictions associated with this condition.

Those with a more apparent condition may experience the following:

o Trouble latching to the mother for breast feeding.

o Improperly formed teeth, or gaps between front lower teeth.

o Speech complications often occur because the tongue cannot clearly form sounds of certain letters.

o Social problems can arise due to restricted speech and tongue movement.

o Difficulty sticking out the tongue very far.

o Problems with tongue touching the upper teeth.

o Difficulty moving the tongue from side to side.

o Tongue can appear to have a heart shape or notch.

As you can see, symptoms range from mild to severe and can include several physical barriers if the condition is not corrected.

How is it Diagnosed?

Since this condition is not always apparent just by taking a quick look at the tongue, a physical exam by a health professional or ENT doctor (Ear, Nose and Throat) is almost always required. The health provider can check the shape and movement of the tongue, then properly determine a course of treatment.

Treatment for Tongue-Tie

There are several treatment options depending on the patient's age and severity of the tongue-tie.

o Medical Procedure – If the child is under one year of age and is experiencing feeding problems, a surgeon may clip the lingual frenulum. If the child is older and the condition is not interfering with eating, your health care specialist may wait to see if the frenulum stretches on its own and corrects itself.

o Exercises – depending on severity, doing some recommended oral exercises may be all that is needed to help with stretching.

o Frenuloplasty – If there are problems later on with speech, a doctor may do a procedure where the lingual frenulum is clipped and the wound is closed with stitches.

The specific cause of tongue-tie is unknown. It is thought to either be hereditary or an infant may have it in conjunction with other oral abnormalities such as a cleft palate. In most cases, it is very treatable and does not cause long-term complications if treated early on.