A tongue-tie is a medical condition where the short tight band of tissues in the tongue (or known as lingual frenulum) ties the tip of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This condition which is medically known as ankyloglossia, often happens at birth. It takes a toll on the baby as it restricts the tongue’s range of motion, thereby making it hard for the baby to even breastfeed. Exclusive breastfeeding babies with tongue tie usually will have slow weight gain and are unable to recover faster from jaundice. Some babies with tongue-tie find it hard to stick their tongues out and as they grow bigger, they face difficulties to speak, eat and swallow.
Doctors are yet to know the exact cause of tongue-tie but there are indications that it is associated with genetic factors, which runs in some families. Although this condition can affect any child, its prevalence rate is higher among boys than girls.
Tongue-tie’s severity is subjected on how flexible the tongue can move around. The most common symptom of tongue-tie is the affected baby has a heart-shaped tongue when stuck out, difficulty sticking out the tongue and troubles moving the tongue side to side.
There is some controversy surrounding the treatment of tongue-tie. While some doctors recommend that it be treated immediately before the baby is discharged from the hospital, other medical experts recommend observing it for some time. The standard treatment for tongue-tight includes two surgical procedures known as frenotomy and frenuloplasty.
Frenotomy is a simple surgical procedure where the doctor uses scissors or laser to cut the lingual frenulum. This procedure can be done with or without anaesthesia and rarely results in complications. Meanwhile, frenuloplasty is a more extensive procedure where the lingual frenulum is too thick for frenotomy. Frenuloplasty is always done under general anaesthesia and the wound is usually closed with sutures. The possible complications of both procedures are rare but they include bleeding, infection, damage to the tongue and damage to the salivary gland.
Nevertheless, tongue-tie can persist in babies without causing any problems and this is why some medical experts opt not to treat it immediately. Some babies may need assistance with lactation and a speech therapist to help improve their speech sounds as they grow older.
Now, it’s left on you as a parent to use your instincts and make a decision on whether or not you want your baby’s tongue-tie to be corrected immediately. Bear in mind that the surgical procedures can still be done later in life if there are indications that the condition is causing discomfort or limiting your child’s oral development.