Tongue-tie (Ankyloglossia)

August is national breast-feeding month. One of the reasons a baby may have trouble breast-feeding is due to the baby being tongue-tied.

What is Ankyloglossia (tongue-tie)?

Ankyloglossia is a condition that restricts the tongue’s range of motion. A short, thick and tight piece of tissue called the lingual frenulum connects the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the bottom of the mouth, interfering with eating, speaking and swallowing. Usually the lingual frenulum separates before birth, but with tongue-tie it remains attached to the bottom of the tongue.

What are the symptoms of tongue-tie in babies?

  • difficulty attaching or staying attached for the duration of the feed
  • feeding for a long time with a short break before feeding again
  • seeming hungry all the time
  • not gaining weight as they should
  • making a clicking sound when they feed
  • biting or teeth grinding
  • vomiting right after feeds

Other Symptoms:

  • difficulty lifting the tongue to the upper teeth or moving it from side to side
  • difficulty sticking out the tongue past the lower front teeth
  • tongue appears notched or heart-shaped when stuck out

If not treated, tongue-tie may lead to:

  • Breast feeding problems: To breast-feed, a baby needs to keep his/her tongue over the lower gum while sucking. If the baby is unable to move their tongue to keep it in the correct position, the baby may chew instead of suck on the nipple which interferes with the baby’s ability to get milk.
  • Speech difficulties: tongue-tie can interfere with the ability to make certain sounds including: “t”, “d”, “z”, “s”, “th”, “r”, and “I”.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Tongue-tie can make it difficult to remove food from the teeth which increases the risk of tooth decay and gingivitis. It can also lead to formation of a space or gap between the two bottom front teeth.
  • Other oral activities: Tongue-tie can interfere with licking ice cream cones or lips, kissing and/or playing a wind instrument.

You should see Dr. Zaugg if:

  • your baby has signs of tongue-tie (having trouble breast-feeding)
  • a speech language pathologist thinks your child’s speech is affected by tongue-tie
  • your child complains of problems with eating, speaking or reaching the back teeth

How do you correct tongue-tie?

If a tongue-tie is diagnosed by Dr. Zaugg, the next step is to correct the problem. Dr. Zaugg will perform a simple laser procedure (called a frenulotomy) to cut the frenulum. It is a quick, simple procedure that can be done in 2-3 min and heal within 2 hrs. With the laser there is minimal bleeding, no risk of infection and often no anesthetic is needed.

*4-11% of newborn babies are affected by tongue-tie and it is more common in boys than girls

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