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What is Tongue-Tie?

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Underneath the tongue, there is a string of tissue called the ‘Frenulum’. This connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. Ankyloglossia, or ‘tongue-tie’ refers to when the frenulum is too tight or short, restricting movement of the tongue. Tongue-tie is usually easy to treat and shouldn’t cause any long-term effects if correctly managed.

How can I tell if my baby has tongue-tie?

Signs your baby’s frenulum may not have developed correctly include:

  • Tongue looking square rather than pointed when stuck out.
  • Tongue being V-shaped or heart-shaped if the frenulum is close to the tip of the tongue.
  • Tongue cannot extend past the lower teeth.
  • An inability to lift tongue to the roof of the mouth.
  • Breastfeeding issues.

Tongue-tie varies in severity. The most severe instance of tongue-tie involves the tongue being fused to the floor of the mouth, though many cases of tongue-tie are asymptomatic. Some instances of tongue-tie may even go untreated.

Diagnoses of tongue-tie differ between doctors. At your baby’s first routine check-up, the doctor can inspect baby’s mouth using a finger to check for tongue-tie. It is difficult to know how common tongue-tie is as it can be hard to diagnose. Studies show somewhere between 1/9 to 1/25 children have tongue-tie and that it is more prevalent in boys than girls.

Tongue-tie and breastfeeding

Tongue-tied babies can struggle to breastfeed in a few ways:

  • Issues with latching
  • Being unsettled during feeds
  • Inefficient sucking, leading to problems with healthy weight gain
  • Slipping off the nipple

Consult your lactation professional or doctor if you are experiencing troubles with breastfeeding or if you are concerned your child might have tongue-tie. If your child can still feed without problems, tongue-tie may in some cases go untreated but discuss this with your doctor.

How is tongue-tie treated?

If your baby’s tongue-tie does require treatment, they will need a relatively simple surgery called a ‘Frenulotomy’ or sometimes called a ‘Frenectomy’. This involves snipping or lasering the frenulum at the base of baby’s tongue.

If your child is young enough, this surgery can sometimes be performed after gently numbing the area. It shouldn’t be painful and some babies can even sleep through the procedure. If your child is older, they may need a specialist surgeon and may be put under general anaesthetic if your doctor suggests this option.

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