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Tongue Tie in Babies: What You Need to Know

baby girl frowning

Chance are, you've probably heard the metaphor of getting "tongue-tied," a metaphor meaning you're struggling to pronounce something correctly, and the good old tongue twisters are there to help leave your tongue-tied. While these can be fun and silly, it's essential to know that "tongue-tied" is far more than just some metaphor.

It is also an oral condition and can have a massive impact on babies. This can include dental health, airways, and even breastfeeding. Unfortunately, even though this rare condition continues to have evolving research, there are still plenty of misconceptions floating around about having babies having tongue-tie. So, here is everything you need to know about tongue-tie in babies.

What is a Tongue Tie?

Tongue-tie, also known as “ankyloglossia," is a condition where the tongue cannot move freely in the mouth. It can cause problems such as velopharynx dysfunction, which can lead to breathing problems or speech delay.

How Do You Know if Your Baby Has a Tongue Tie?

A baby with a tongue tie typically has difficulty breastfeeding and may also have trouble eating solid food. It can be frustrating for parents to watch their baby struggle with such an easy task. There are no fantastic tips for this. Tongue ties are common in babies born prematurely or who have had surgery on their mouths. Still, they can also occur naturally during pregnancy or after birth without any explanation. These don't necessarily need to be hereditary, either.

Parents should watch for some of these signs:

- Difficulty latching onto the breast

- Difficulty moving food to the back of the throat

- Difficulty swallowing liquids

Usually, your baby's pediatrician will be able to tell you within the first few appointments whether or not your baby had a tongue tie.

Related: Is Your Baby Grinding Their Teeth? Here’s What To Do

How Common is Tongue Tie?

There isn't an exact statistic known about tongue ties but it is estimated that this occurrence is around 3 to 5 percent. However, other researchers and healthcare providers estimate that tongue-tie can be as prevalent as 25 percent for babies. There is much research on why this is an occurrence for babies.

 

little baby boy sticking his tongue out

How is Tongue Tie Treated for the Baby?

When it comes to the treatment, it's going to be summed up by how difficult the situation is. Unfortunately, there aren't exactly any precautions that parents can take to prevent this either. Many pediatricians have the "let's wait and see" approach because not all cases of tongue-tie are considered dangerous. There are mild cases, and the milder cases will have a different approach than those more severe. The treatment for tongue-tie is going to depend on how bad it is, what the symptoms are, and the age as well. Here are some of the forms of tongue tie treatment.

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Velopharynx Velopectomy

A tongue tie can be corrected by a velopharynx velopectomy, which removes the tissue restricting the tongue's movement. This procedure can be done under general or local anesthesia, depending on your preference and your child's age. This is usually needed for very severe cases of tongue-tie.

Frenotomy

This is a straightforward procedure where the parents (or caregiver) have to stretch the tissue out physically. This is usually needed as the tissue attaching the tongue has been cut, so every day for three to four weeks, these stretches will be needed. The point of these stretches is meant to prevent any tissue from regrowing too tightly during the healing process.

Cranial Sacral Therapy

This relieves compression in the head, sacrum, and spinal column bones. This is remarkably non-invasive and gentle. This can be an option for treatment for tongue-tie. Still, it's usually going to depend on what the pediatrician thinks.

Other treatments

There are alternative treatment methods, but all of these will heavily depend on how bad the tongue tie is. Still, it's also based on the discretion of the parents and pediatrician. Some treatment methods can include physical and occupational therapy, oral motor therapy, and lactation interventions.

Related: Is Your Baby Teething? Use Our Teething Chart

Are There Any Other Oral Ties Similar to Tongue Tie?

Yes, there is. There is a lip, and buccal ties, which are other oral ties that could be found in babies. Just like tongue ties, they're not very common. Also, like a tongue tie, the upper lip tie is attached to the anterior gums. To a degree, newborns technically have some type of upper lip attachment. It’s only an actual problem when feeding may occur. 

If the upper lip cannot move due to the lip tie (such as being too tight or rigid), this can be a significant issue. This can have the possibility of leading to tooth decay and potentially other dental issues once the child has teeth coming in.

Little baby boy in a striped shirt

Are There Any Long-term Effects of Having an Untreated Tongue Tie?

There can be some long-term issues that can happen due to tongue-tie. This can include weight gain problems, as the baby will have difficulty eating. This alone will cause problems with your baby thriving and being healthy during infancy. 

Related: When You Should Stop Using A Pacifier

This can also cause other issues such as misalignment with the teeth and other orthodontic health-related issues. In addition, speech is known to be majorly affected by tongue-tie. While the ability to learn speech within itself is not an issue, an untreated tongue tie may cause issues with how children can pronounce words.

Bottom Line

While tongue-tie isn’t necessarily very dangerous (depending on the severity), it's still highly recommended that parents look at it and pay attention to it. Releasing the tongue tie can be a rapid, simple, and safe procedure for your baby. 

There are far more benefits to releasing the tongue tie, as this will drastically help with breastfeeding issues, speech, and so much more. Make sure you take to your talk, lactation consultant, or midwife if your baby struggles with breastfeeding. These healthcare professionals will be able to do an evaluation of your baby and refer you to the best form of treatment.

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