Tongue-Tie Can Affect How Your Child Eats and Speaks
There are many conditions that newborns and infants may be stricken with. While some do have dangerous implications, many of these conditions are far from life-threatening and hardly have lasting effects on a child’s life. Some can even be dealt with before a child goes home. Doctors may decide to do nothing and see if the condition gets better on its own. Ankyloglossia, or tongue-tie, is one such condition.
There is some contention when it comes to the treatment of this ailment. Many doctors think it’s best to wait to treat tongue-tie. Occasionally, it won’t cause any problems for the infant, or it will improve on its own. However, some doctors prefer to eliminate any potential issues tongue-tie may cause in the future. To treat this problem, your child’s doctor may perform a frenotomy. This is a safe procedure that corrects your child’s condition with ease and little pain.
Many parents may not be too familiar with tongue-tie. After all, only about 10% of children live with the condition and even less need it treated. While only a select few children require a frenotomy, Tots N Teens Pediatrics is here to explain tongue-tie and how a frenotomy can help the condition.
What is Tongue-Tie?
Your tongue has a list of purposes. It helps you taste the foods you are consuming while also assisting you in eating. Not only that, but it works alongside your lips, teeth, and vocal cords to help you communicate and speak. It needs its full range of motion in order to fulfill its purpose.
Unfortunately, a small percentage of babies are plagued with ankyloglossia, more commonly referred to as tongue-tie. A child with tongue-tie has a problem with their lingual frenulum. The lingual frenulum is a piece of tissue that connects the bottom of the mouth with the underside of the tongue. Whenever it is either too short, too tight, too thick, or attached too close to the tip of the tongue, your child is diagnosed with tongue-tie.
This problem hinders the tongue from moving freely around your mouth, often holding it in one place. Many children are not affected by tongue-tie and often live their life perfectly fine without treatment. However, tongue-tie can lead to many issues for others. For example, a child with tongue-tie may struggle to latch on during breastfeeding, often leading to other eating issues, as well. This condition may also impact how a child talks, affecting how your child pronounces “t,” “d,” “z,” “s,” “th,” ‘r,” and “l” sounds.
Doctors aren’t sure why tongue-tie occurs. Typically, the lingual frenulum separates from the tongue before your child’s birth, but sometimes it doesn’t. The condition may run in the family. Boys are three times more likely to get this condition than girls.
Thankfully, it is somewhat easy to spot tongue-tie in your child. Your child’s doctor will be able to diagnose the condition in a physical exam. They will often ask how feeding is going, will check your child’s mouth, tongue, and teeth, and will use a tongue depressor to look under your child’s tongue and to check its range of motion.
However, you should keep an eye out for these symptoms to catch tongue-tie early:
- Your child struggles to latch well during breastfeeding
- They seem to chew more than suck
- They aren’t gaining weight like you expected them to
- Feeding lasts longer than you’d expect, often with a break in between feeding
- Your child is fussy during feeding
- They make clicking noises while feeding
- They seem to be hungry all the time
Along with these symptoms, you should pay some attention to your child’s tongue, seeing if:
- They can easily move their tongue from side to side
- They can’t reach the roof of their mouth with their tongue
- Their tongue has a V or heart shape at the tip when stuck out
- Their tongue can’t stick out past their gums
If you recognize any of these signs and symptoms, you need to bring them in to have an exam to accurately diagnose their condition.
As we mentioned early, some doctors opt to use the wait-and-see approach. Occasionally, the lingual frenulum might loosen up, or the ailment doesn’t cause any issues. Other doctors, however, decide to treat the condition right away to ensure there are no problems in the future. At Tots N Teens Pediatrics, our providers utilize a frenotomy to treat tongue-tie.
This is a simple procedure and is very safe. Many cases don’t even require drugs to numb the patient. During the procedure, the doctor will hold up the tongue to make the frenulum tight. They then take a pair of sanitized scissors and clip the frenulum parallel and close to the tongue. Fortunately, the frenulum doesn’t have many nerves or blood vessels, which means your child experiences very little pain, and there is only a drop or two of blood.
Your baby should be able to breastfeed right away, which often soothes the wound and helps with healing.
By receiving a frenotomy, your child will:
- Be able to breastfeed correctly without any issues.
- Be able to speak properly and not struggle with specific enunciations
- Have improved oral hygiene. If their tongue cannot move around freely, they won’t be able to sweep food debris from their teeth and gums, which can build up and lead to oral issues
- Be able to correctly accomplish other oral activities, such as licking an ice cream cone, playing an instrument, and more
Tongue-tie is just one of many issues that plague infants. While the condition isn’t life-threatening, it does provide some inconvenience to your child. Thankfully, the providers at Tots N Teens Pediatrics can safely and successfully conduct a frenotomy to treat your child’s condition. Contact us to learn more about how a frenotomy can help your child.