Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 23-12-2019
If you take a moment to focus and move your tongue around the inside of your mouth, you’ll notice that you can reach almost every part of your mouth. This is a sign of a normal, healthy tongue with a full range of motion. This range of motion allows us to make different sounds when we are speaking, swallow our food, and keep our mouths clean by sweeping away pieces of food in our mouth. If this range of motion is impeded in any way, it can create several problems.
In children, there is a small stretch of tissue known as the lingual frenulum. It connects the underside of the tongue to the bottom of your mouth. If there is a problem with the lingual frenulum, it can cause a condition known as tongue-tie, formally known as Ankyloglossia. The lingual frenulum may be too short and tight, or its attachment point could be near the tip of the tongue. In these situations, the tongue becomes tied in place and is unable to move around freely. Children with this condition have difficulty breastfeeding as newborns and eventually go on to have further issues with eating and speaking as they grow up. Sometimes, this condition may go undetected; however, it can still be treated later in life.
What causes tongue-tie and how is it detected?
Typically, the lingual frenulum separates from the tongue before birth. Tongue-tie is caused when this piece of tissue doesn’t separate. The reason for this lack of separation is unknown to doctors, but they suspect that there may be a genetic cause. Baby boys are three times more likely to be tongue-tied than girls.
Usually, tongue-tie is detected in newborns who are being breastfed. You may notice that your child is having difficulty latching on, or is unable to perform the correct sucking motion. Tongue-tied babies have difficulty sucking and, therefore, seem fussier when being fed, don’t gain weight as expected, and always seem to be hungry. These babies put in the effort to feed; however, their sucking motion is restricted and, therefore, feeding becomes difficult for them.
Attempting to breastfeed a tongue-tied baby is not only difficult for the child, but also the mother. The unsuccessful sucking motion produced by tongue-tied babies can leave the mother’s nipples bruised, cracked, and in some cases, infected, which ultimately affects the mother’s milk supply.
Tongue-tie can not only be detected during feeding time but also by the appearance and motion of your child’s tongue. If you find that your child is unable to move their tongue very far from side to side, up or down, or if their tongue forms a V-shape at its tip when they stick out their tongue, you may want to consult a doctor to confirm whether your child has tongue-tie.
How is tongue-tie treated?
Treatment for tongue-tie is usually done when children are at a young age; this way, they can be breastfed more easily and develop normal speech as they grow. However, if tongue-tie is detected later in life, treatment can be performed at any time. Tongue-tie can be treated in several surgical and non-surgical ways, including the following:
- Frenotomy/Frenulectomy: These surgical procedures involve cutting the lingual frenulum. This procedure is performed by holding the tongue upwards towards the roof of the mouth, which will help tighten the frenulum and make it clearly visible. A cut is made through the white, fascia-like tissue along a line that is parallel to the tongue. The cut is made quickly, in a single swift motion, and the procedure does not require anesthesia. There is a chance of excessive bleeding; however, there is a very low risk of this occurring.
- Frenuloplasty: This surgical procedure involves the rearrangement of tissues or adding grafts after creating an incision and then closing the incision in a specific way to lengthen the anterior tongue. This type of procedure is generally more invasive and usually performed in older infants and children, and requires the use of general anesthesia.
- Laser frenectomy: A type of laser surgery that is used to separate the frenulum from the tongue. This laser surgery is relatively quicker and safer compared to other cutting methods. Laser frenectomy is not an intrusive procedure; parents can remain with their babies to help keep them calm during the procedure. Bleeding during the procedure or infection is very rare. The recovery time and postoperative complications are non-existent, and babies can start feeding successfully immediately after. Overall, the use of a laser has been found to produce more exact results and can stop the flow of blood more effectively.
- Non-surgical procedures: There are new non-invasive procedures that can be used to help manage the effects of tongue-tie. These non-surgical approaches include lactation interventions to help babies latch on and breastfeed effectively, as well as speech therapy.
The health and well-being of a child is dependent on many things, including breastfeeding, eating solid foods, and speaking. These simple, everyday tasks can be interrupted by tongue-tie in children.
To help improve the child’s quality of life, treatment should be undertaken so that they won’t suffer from any difficulties with eating, speaking, or sleeping, and enjoy overall better oral hygiene by simply allowing the tongue to clean out food particles from their mouth. Being unable to speak and express oneself can also have a psychological impact on a growing child, making it difficult for them to build confidence and self-esteem and thrive in social and professional settings.
At Milltown Dental, we can provide the treatment to help restore normal tongue function in your child. Don’t let your child suffer the inability to eat or speak, and help give them the normal life they deserve.
Our expert dentist at Milltown Dental can help make that dream come true. Call us today at (905) 878-8528 to book an appointment with us or click here to learn more about our tongue-tie treatments and services.