Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 27-04-2022
Ankyloglossia, otherwise known as tongue-tie, occurs when there is an abnormality in the band of tissue that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This tissue band is called the frenulum. If it’s too short, too thick, too stiff, or too tight, it restricts the movement of the tongue.
Although small, the frenulum can cause serious problems for babies and children. These issues range from difficult breastfeeding to speech impairments—even gum disease!
Tongue-tie often becomes apparent during breastfeeding when the baby has difficulty latching on. Another indicator of tongue-tie is a tongue that appears squared off or cannot move from side to side. Ultimately, your dentist will be able to confirm if your child is tongue-tied.
Fortunately, your dentist can also fix your child’s tongue-tie. Laser tongue-tie surgery is safe, quick, and non-intrusive. Not only can it correct breastfeeding issues immediately, but it prevents serious long-term consequences that come with an untreated tongue-tie. If your baby is tongue-tied, then tongue-tie surgery is the best course of action.
1. Tongue-tie can make breastfeeding difficult
Tongue-tied babies frequently have difficulty latching on to breastfeed. Because the tongue-tie restricts the movement of the tongue, babies are unable to use conventional movements in order to nurse. In turn, these atypical motions can cause pain and discomfort for the nursing mother. Some mothers experience cracked nipples, mastitis, nipple damage, and breast infections.
Babies that struggle to latch may not get enough milk in a feeding session. If they can’t stay latched, it’s very difficult for them to get adequate milk. Consequently, they have to feed longer or more frequently. Even so, inability to properly latch might mean your baby isn’t getting sufficient milk for proper growth and weight gain. This can have troubling consequences for the overall development of your child.
Furthermore, improper latching can fail to stimulate milk production. This can cause an unfortunate snowball effect where your baby isn’t getting enough milk and you aren’t producing enough.
Breastfeeding troubles can be very discouraging for new parents. For the health of both nursing mother and baby, it’s best to understand the issue as soon as possible. If your baby is struggling to latch on and feed, a tongue-tie could be the main issue.
2. Tongue-tie can lead to future dental problems
There are a range of dental problems that can be brought on by tongue-tie. Some affect your child in their infancy, and some develop as they get older if the tongue-tie is left untreated.
Babies with tongue-tie can develop tooth decay in their newly erupted teeth. This is because residual milk is able to pool around their baby teeth, thus bringing on early tooth decay. Tongue-tie can also cause gums to pull away from the teeth, depending on where the tie is attached.
If left untreated, there can be long-term consequences. Children potentially face serious issues with palatal development, dental caries, and tooth spacing. Tongue-tied adults may encounter gum disease, persistent cavities, jaw pain, and teeth extractions.
3. Tongue-tie can cause speech issues
A tongue-tie impedes the tongue’s movement. Someone who is tongue-tied is unable to stick their tongue out, lift their tongue, or move it from side to side. Essentially, their tongue lacks its full range of motion. Understandably, this can affect their ability to speak.
Untreated tongue-tie commonly leads to speech impediments. While it doesn’t always result in speech delay, it does affect speech articulation. Tongue-tied children struggle to form the correct sounds in order to pronounce words. For this reason, it’s so important to identify tongue-tie early in infancy and treat it before speech development begins.
4. Tongue-tie can affect eating
Tongue-tie also affects a child’s ability to chew and swallow. Because the tongue’s movement is so limited, it’s much harder to properly chew food. Similarly, this makes swallowing far more difficult. Consequently, tongue-tied children can experience choking, gagging, and vomiting.
Children who are tongue-tied may develop an abnormal swallowing pattern to compensate for their tongue’s limited range of motion. Over time, this can result in an atypically strong gag reflex.
Tongue-tied babies may also struggle more when solid food is introduced to their diets.
5. Tongue-tie can result in poor oral hygiene
As we have already covered, tongue-tie restricts the movement of the tongue. This is where most of the issues associated with tongue-tie arise. One final consequence of this limited range of movement is poor oral hygiene.
The tongue has many jobs, including sweeping food debris from around the teeth. When its motion is impeded, the tongue can no longer do this. Consequently, tongue-tied children and adults face a heightened chance of tooth decay and gum disease. It’s vital for our oral health that the tongue is able to self-cleanse the mouth.
Tongue-Tie Surgery Is Essential for Proper Development
Tongue-tie begins to negatively impact children almost immediately. Breastfeeding can become difficult and ineffective with tongue-tied babies struggling to latch on and get the milk they need to grow. The problems continue if the tongue-tie goes untreated. Tooth decay, issues with tooth spacing and palatal development, and gum disease are all real possibilities.
Because tongue-tie restricts the movement of the tongue, it also affects a child’s ability to speak and eat. Speech impediments are common with tongue-tied children. They often find it difficult to form the sounds necessary to properly pronounce words. Additionally, chewing and swallowing are far more difficult than with non-tongue-tied children. This can lead to choking and an atypically strong gag reflex.
To avoid these issues, tongue-tie surgery is absolutely critical. Laser surgery, also known as a laser frenectomy, quickly and safely removes the tongue-tie. It’s less intrusive than the traditional cutting method, and even allows for babies to be held by their parents during the procedure. It heals fast and is painless for many infants.
Laser tongue-tie surgery allows babies to nurse successfully, develop normal speech, and avoid the oral health concerns associated with tongue-tie. If you think your baby is tongue-tied, contact Dr. Julie at Milltown Dental!