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Tongue-tie (Pediatric)

What is tongue-tie?

Tongue-tie, also known as ankyloglossia (ankle-oh-gloss-ia), is a restriction of the tongue that can interfere with an infant’s ability to breastfeed. The result can be poor nourishment and failure to thrive.

Tongue-tie is a congenital condition (found at birth).  A white band known as the frenulum extends from the base of the tongue almost to the tip, and inhibits the normal motion of the tongue.  

This condition sometimes runs in families.

What are the symptoms of tongue-tie?

  • An infant may have difficulty lifting the tongue to the upper palate or moving the tongue from side to side.  When extended, the tongue may also appear notched or heart-shaped.  This may cause problems breastfeeding.
  • Some mothers experience soreness and pain as the baby struggles to feed.
  • An older child may have tongue problems that interfere with eating or speaking.

How is tongue-tie diagnosed?

Our pediatric ear nose and throat specialists can diagnose this condition on with a physical exam.

How is tongue-tie treated?

Careful Monitoring. When the tongue-tie is mild, we may elect to observe the child.  A lactation consultant can offer advice that helps with nursing.

Surgery.  When there are serious problems, a frenulectomy is generally performed in the first few months of the infant’s life. A surgeon uses sterile scissors is used to divide the frenulum (the white band restricting the tongue).  This frees the tongue, leading to a more efficient suck and better nursing.  Discomfort is minimal and post-operative bleeding is rare.  Healing occurs within three to five days.

A severe tongue-tie may produce problems with speech as the child gets older, and a speech pathologist may be called upon to evaluate and help the child.