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Tongue Tie (Ankyloglossia) in Infants: The Basics

Tongue tie or ankyloglossia is a condition at birth that restricts the movement of the tongue. With tongue-tie, an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue tethers the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth. A person who has tongue-tie might have difficulty sticking out his or her tongue. Tongue-tie can also affect the way a child eats, speaks and swallows, as well as interfere with breastfeeding.

Signs and symptoms Include:

  • Difficulty lifting the tongue to the upper teeth or moving the tongue from side to side

  • Trouble sticking out the tongue past the lower front teeth

  • A tongue that appears notched or heart shaped when stuck out

You should consult a doctor if:

  • Your baby has signs of tongue-tie that cause problems, such as having trouble breastfeeding

Tongue tie happens when the band of tissue that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth does not separate before birth. There may be a genetic cause to this, but doctors are still unsure as to why it happens in most cases. Tongue tie is more common in boys than in girls.

Tongue tie can affect an infant’s oral development if left untreated. It also affects the way the child eats, speaks, and swallows.

Un-treated tongue tie may lead to:

  • Breastfeeding problems. Breastfeeding requires a baby to keep his or her tongue over the lower gum while sucking. If unable to move the tongue or keep it in the right position, the baby might chew instead of suck on the nipple. This can cause significant nipple pain and interfere with a baby’s ability to get breast milk. Ultimately, poor breast-feeding can lead to inadequate nutrition and failure to thrive.

  • Speech difficulties. Tongue-tie can interfere with the ability to make certain sounds — such as “t,” “d,” “z,” “s,” “th” and “l.” It can be especially challenging to roll an “r.”

  • Poor oral hygiene. For an older child or adult, tongue-tie can make it difficult to sweep food debris from the teeth. This can contribute to tooth decay and inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). Tongue-tie can also lead to the formation of a gap or space between the two bottom front teeth.

  • Challenges with other oral activities. Tongue-tie can interfere with activities such as licking an ice cream cone, licking the lips, kissing or playing a wind instrument.

If you believe your baby’s tongue is tied, it is important to consult a lactation consultant, pediatrician, dentist or doctor right away. Some tongue tie cases are not severe, but only a doctor can help you determine the best method of treatment.

Contact Dr. Soordhar at Oasis Dental (905-876-2747) if you would like further information on how the tongue tie can be released so your infant’s can latch and breast feed properly.


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