Tongue Tie - Ankyloglossia
When we say, “tongue tied,” most of us think of a situation when we are too excited to express ourselves verbally. Although not a medical condition, tongue tie is the name for a fairly common condition that limits the movement of the tongue - medically referred to as ankyloglossia.
Before we are born, a strong cord of tissue called the frenulum is positioned in the center of the mouth and guides the development of the oral cavity. As we grow and develop, it thins and recedes to a small thin piece of tissue that attaches the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In some children, the frenulum is especially tight or fails to recede and may cause difficulty with tongue movement. Ankyloglossia or tongue tie can cause eating or speaking difficulties in some children.
In infants, tongue tie can present with trouble sucking or poor weight gain. In breastfed infants, it can cause trouble with latching, or the mother may experience pain when the baby is nursing. Some mothers give up nursing because of tongue tie that is not recognized. In toddlers and older children, tongue tie can be a cause of trouble with speech articulation, especially consonant sounds. Signs that your child may have difficulty due to tongue tie include a V-shaped notch at the tip of the tongue, inability to stick the tongue out past the gums, or simply difficulty licking an ice cream cone or lollipop.
Because a shortened frenulum restricts the range of motion of the tongue, a frenulectomy may be recommended. A frenulectomy is a surgical procedure performed to clip the frenulum and release the tongue. In infants a frenulectomy can be performed as a simple office procedure with topical local anesthesia. Older infants and young children often require anesthetic gas for the procedure, but older cooperative children can also have the procedure safely with only local topical anesthesia. Although it is considered a safe and simple procedure, risks of a frenulectomy may include infection, scarring and excessive bleeding.
This procedure results in increased tongue mobility and problems with eating and speech are greatly improved. After surgery, most patients experience effective symptom relief and restored full movement to the tongue. In some cases, tongue exercises may be recommended to improve the movement of the tongue after a frenulectomy.