Tongue-Tie (or ankyloglossia) is a common condition present at birth. Characterized by an atypical membrane connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth, tongue-tie can limit the range of motion and affect speech, eating, swallowing, and proper oral hygiene.
According to the Mayo Clinic, tongue-tie affects 3 million Americans every year. Usually diagnosed in newborns, tongue-tie can limit an infant’s ability to breastfeed and may even stunt speech development if left untreated. In severe cases, tongue-tie may even affect the alignment of teeth.
While tongue-tie may cause a range of issues on a case-by-case basis, one thing about the condition is certain: it doesn’t have to last for life. UAB Medical West’s ear, nose, and throat doctors (ENTs) have treatment options available. But first things first, dealing with tongue-tie begins with understanding it.
What causes tongue-tie?
The true cause of tongue-tie is mostly unknown. Some studies have attempted a link between this condition and certain genetic factors. Even so, the culprit for the difficulties caused by tongue-tie is obvious.
The lingual frenulum (or tongue web) is a mucous membrane usually extending from the middle-underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In most cases, the lingual frenulum recedes before birth allowing for free range of motion.
When the lingual frenulum fails to recede, it can instead affix the tip of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This is the main cause for concern in those diagnosed with tongue-tie.
What are the difficulties associated with tongue-tie?
The most present symptom of tongue-tie is a limited range of tongue motion. Difficulty moving the tongue to the upper teeth or even the inability to extend the tongue beyond the bottom row of teeth are most common.
In some cases, tongue-tie may even resolve on its own. Even so, it still poses several threats depending on the child’s precarious developmental stage. Tongue-tie has been known to cause:
Problems feeding, chewing, swallowing, or breastfeeding
Slower weight gain in infants
Poor oral hygiene
Persistent discomfort in or around the mouth
How is it treated?
The most common treatment for tongue-tie is a small operation called a frenotomy. Usually completed before a newborn leaves the hospital, a frenotomy is a simple procedure requiring little to no anesthesia on average.
During a frenotomy, a physician uses a pair of scissors to disconnect the lingual frenulum, restoring full range of motion to the tongue. Typically, patients experience little bleeding or pain and complications are extremely rare.
In more complicated cases, another procedure--called a frenuloplasty--may be required. In these cases, the lingual frenulum is too thick to be cut by scissors in the frenotomy.
In either case, treatment for tongue-tie is usually quick, efficient, and resolves the condition for life.
Tongue-tie no more
UAB Medical West recognizes that any recommended procedure for a newborn can be frightening for new parents. But like tongue-tie, many problematic issues can be solved with little risk of harm and great results.
Visit UAB Medical West for treatment and advice
Tongue-tie and its treatments may seem scary at first, but UAB Medical West is here to help you through it. Call 205-996-WEST to schedule an appointment for a tongue-tie evaluation or procedure. UAB Medical West proudly serves the Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, Vance communities, and more!