How can I Tell
if My Baby Has
If your baby is having trouble lifting their tongue, or moving it from side to side, they may have developed a tongue tie. It’s a condition that only occurs in about 3% of babies, but can cause problems when breastfeeding and should be treated as soon as you know it’s actually an issue.
Most of the time tongue tie isn’t a serious problem, however not getting treatment for a tongue tied baby can result in problems later in life, including potential issues with eating and overall development. If you think your baby has tongue tie, this article will tell you exactly how to diagnose it and whether or not your child will need treatment.
What Causes Tongue Tie?
Tongue tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is caused when the tissue connecting your tongue to the bottom of your mouth, also known as the frenum, hasn’t developed correctly and is stopping the tongue from moving properly. Usually this happens when while the baby is developing, and often resolves itself in early childhood. Sometimes, however, tongue tie may need to be treated by a dental surgeon.
There are two main causes for tongue tie:
- The frenum is too short, and too tight.
- The frenum did not move back down the tongue as it was developing.
How can I Tell if My Baby Has Tongue Tie?
A tongue tied baby may have trouble moving their tongue, breastfeeding, licking their lips, or pronouncing certain words and letters. There are also a number of other ways you can identify a tongue tie:
- The tongue is heart-shaped because the frenum is holding the tip back.
- Your baby can’t poke their tongue out past their lips.
- The tongue might look flat or square instead of having a pointed tip.
- You are experiencing breastfeeding problems such as nipple pain, misshapen nipples after feeding, the baby losing suction when feeding, underdevelopment, or clicking sounds while the baby is feeding.
How to Treat Tongue Tie?
If tongue tie is identified early, it’s usually pretty simple to fix. Before the baby is around four months old, fraenulum can be released in a simple procedure without any anaesthesia unnecessary. If the baby is older than four months or has a fixed tongue tie, you will need to see a specialist.
The main way to treat tongue tie is by using a small pair of sterile scissors to cut the tongue tie and release the frenulum. This process is called a frenectomy, and is quick, easy, and painless. You can even breastfeed immediately after with no problems! After a few weeks the tongue will heal up almost completely, and your baby will be able to move their tongue normally within three months. On rare occasions there can be further problems like bleeding, pain and ulcers. If this happens, see your dentist immediately.
Treating tongue tie in older children and adults can be more difficult as the frenum is thicker and more developed. Occasionally you will need more a advanced frenectomy to fix the issue. After separation, stitches may be required and it will take a few weeks for the mouth to heal.
Can Babies Grow Out of Tongue Tie?
A lot of the time your child won’t even need treatment for tongue tie. Many specialists these days will tell you to wait for a while and see if the issue resolves itself, as a tongue tie will often loosen and fix itself over time as your child grows, meaning they won’t need treatment at all. Of course it’s always a good idea to get a check-up as this will tell you what stage the tongue tie is at and how likely it is that it will need treatment.
Can Tongue Tie Cause Speech Problems?
Most of the time tongue tie won’t cause speech problems. If resolved early enough any problems your child is having pronouncing letters or words will go away. Tongue tie in toddlers or children even older, however, can occasionally result in speech problems. If there are noticeable speech difficulties after the tongue tie has been fixed, it may be worth talking to a speech pathologist.
What Should I Do Next?
If you think your baby has tongue tie, it’s time to see a specialist. Most general practitioners, dentists and child health nurses are able to diagnose and treat a tongue tied baby. Tongue tie can be mild and go unnoticed for years, so it’s better to get it checked out now and be certain, rather than run into problems in the future.
Book an appointment with your local dentist today and they’ll be able to see what’s happening clearly and tell you exactly what to do next.
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Dr. Manish Shah is a cometic dentist with a special interest in porcelain veneers, dental implants and Invisalign. He is also a medical doctor with an expertise in sleep & craniofacial pain medicine practising at Smile Concepts.