Posted on: 26 October 2016Share
Tongue tie, more formally called ankyloglossia, occurs when a tendon called the lingual frenulum is either shorter or stronger than usual, making it so the tongue's motion is restricted. This condition occurs in between 4 and 10 percent of all babies and is a genetic condition, meaning it can be passed down through families. It isn't always very obvious, but it can cause a number of issues if it isn't dealt with. The main treatment for this condition is called a frenectomy and involves cutting the tendon to allow freer motion of the tongue.
The main reason why a tongue tie frenectomy is often performed in infants, sometimes within days of their birth, is because a tongue tie can interfere with breastfeeding. The short frenulum keeps the baby from being able to suck properly, which leaves the baby getting an insufficient amount of food and the mother with sore and potentially bleeding nipples. At least one study showed that performing a tongue tie frenectomy was able to improve breastfeeding, with 80 percent of tongue-tied babies who had the surgery showing improvements in breastfeeding within a day and most of these babies showing improvements immediately.
As a child gets older, the adverse effects of a tongue tie can increase, potentially resulting in difficulties pronouncing certain sounds. Think of it, to make some sounds the tongue has to be able to touch the back of the teeth or the roof of the mouth, which can't always happen with a tongue tie. Those who have trouble moving their tongue from one side to the other, can't touch their tongue to the roof of their mouth, or can't stick their tongue out past their teeth may be more likely to experience language problems. The affected letters can include d, l, n, r, sh, t, th and z. Speech therapy may be necessary for those who don't get a frenectomy until later in life.
Quick and Almost Painless
In infants, the doctor can simply clip the tie with a scissors, and since there are very few nerves in this area, it doesn't really hurt much. There also doesn't tend to be very much blood, and most infants can go directly back to nursing after the procedure, which only lasts a few seconds and can be performed with the parents holding the swaddled baby. Some doctors have noticed that babies that have a tongue tie frenectomy with numbing medication tend to actually cry longer than those who don't have their tongues numbed. This is most likely due to the oddness of not being able to move their tongues to help soothe themselves and is why many of these procedures are performed without any numbing medication.