Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 27-07-2022
Tongue-tie is a condition many babies have. However, the symptoms of this condition can be subtle and, therefore, hard to recognize. If left untreated, tongue-tie could cause several complications for a child. Fortunately, tongue-tie surgery is a simple treatment with a proven solution for tongue-tie in babies. However, the necessary first step is learning to identify this condition, so you know if your child may require surgery.
Tongue-tie can cause speech problems, speech delay, or poor oral hygiene. This article will explore what tongue-tie is and go through the various signs that can inform you whether your child has it or not.
What is tongue-tie?
Tongue-tie or Ankyloglossia is a condition in children where a tissue known as the frenulum is longer than usual, causing restrained tongue movement. Usually, the frenulum dissolves over time, but tongue-tie surgery is necessary when that does not happen.
Adequate feeding helps babies grow and be healthy, but their feeding can be affected by restricted tongue movement. Babies with tongue-ties have been known to struggle with latching on to their mother's nipple while breastfeeding. Some babies may take more time to suckle or give up in exhaustion while feeding because of their tongue’s restrictions.
As with all medical conditions, early detection is best in order to avoid complications. The following are eight signs your child has tongue-tie and might require a medical procedure.
1. Inability to Latch onto Nipples During Breastfeeding
A baby’s tongue must be free of restrictions so they can feed correctly. While breastfeeding, a baby wraps its tongue around its mother’s nipple, putting pressure on it and using the tongue and jaw to form a repeated hold and release motion.
For children with tongue-tie, this is a chore. If your baby latches on using their gums, teeth, or lower lip, that could indicate that they have tongue-tie. It could also make breastfeeding a painful experience for you. If you notice your baby struggles to hold on to feeding bottles or nipples, visit your physician to get them examined.
2. Inability to Breathe While Breast-feeding
For a baby with tongue-tie, breathing could be difficult during breastfeeding. The lingual frenulum glues their tongue to the bottom of their mouth, providing little space for airflow while they feed.
If this happens to your baby, they may have difficulty swallowing breast milk. With regard to long-term effects, your baby may be malnourished, have trouble gaining weight, and may pee or poop at irregular intervals.
3. Difficulty With Tongue Mobility
The lingual frenulum is an integral part of the tongue. Tongue-tie can cause the lingual frenulum to extend longer than usual, either towards the side or forward, limiting the tongue’s motion.
In some cases, it is a mild restriction, where the tongue can move in a limited way. However, in severe cases, there may be no movement. If you notice your baby struggling to lift their tongue to the roof of their mouth or move it from side to side, it could be related to tongue-tie.
4. Trouble Sticking Out Tongue
When a child’s frenulum reaches the tip of their tongue, sticking it out is either strenuous or impossible. Their tongue compacts and moves upwards but cannot fully come out. If your child cannot stick out their tongue, it might impede their speech. It will likely be particularly difficult for them to pronounce words with "th," "z," "d," or "r" sounds.
5. Heart-shaped Tongue
A heart-shaped tongue is the most obvious sign that your child has tongue-tie. If your child’s tongue appears heart-shaped when they try to lift it or stick it out, they probably have tongue-tie. The heart shape is caused by the lingual frenulum holding their tongue in place, causing the centre to dip.
6. Clicking Sounds and Leaking During Feeding
If your baby makes clicking sounds while they feed, it is another sign they might have tongue-tie. This symptom happens when your baby finds it difficult to hold onto your nipples. The clicking sounds will ensue if they repeatedly struggle to hang on to your nipple. For the same reason, much of the milk your baby sucks may pour out of their mouth while they try reattaching their tongue to your nipple.
If your baby suffers from this condition, they will usually stop feeding not from a full stomach but from exhaustion. This may result in longer feeding times or short intervals between feeding times. If this happens frequently, it could indicate that your baby has tongue-tie.
7. Oral Toilet
Oral toilet refers to the action of using the tongue to clean the teeth. It is common for food to stick to our teeth as we eat. To remove this food, we typically swirl our tongues around to get it unstuck. However, if your child has tongue tie, they will struggle to control their tongue because it cannot move around their mouth freely.
You may notice your child sticking their hands in their mouth to remove food stuck in their teeth because they cannot do it with their tongue. Children with tongue-tie are more susceptible to cavities since they cannot properly clean their teeth with their tongues.
8. Difficulty Eating Solids
We rely on our tongues to help us chew solid foods. However, due to the restrictions caused by tongue-tie, performing simple tasks such as chewing age-appropriate foods become strenuous. If your child has tongue-tie, they may gag or choke a lot while eating. They may also frequently vomit since they cannot lift their tongue to swallow.
What do you do if your child shows signs of tongue-tie?
All of the signs mentioned above could indicate that your child has tongue-tie. However, it is best to consult a doctor to help confirm the existence of such a condition in your child. Never try to cut your child’s frenulum on your own since that could be extremely dangerous or even fatal for them.
A tongue-tie surgery will easily remove your baby’s tongue restrictions, so they can properly feed and grow. At Milltown Dental, we complete tongue-tie surgeries in just over 15 minutes. We also provide an array of services that can help ensure your baby’s oral health.