If your infant is having trouble latching when breastfeeding or you find yourself in a lot of pain during the process, your infant could be suffering from tongue tie.
Ankyloglossia, or tongue tie, is a condition where the lingual frenum, the thin piece of tissue attached underneath the tongue to the floor of the mouth, forms an abnormally short web that tethers the tongue’s tip to the bottom of the mouth. This causes limited tongue movement which results in a struggle to breastfeed, take a bottle, or even use a pacifier.
Tongue tie can result in weight loss in your infant, leading to severe side effects, even a potentially increased risk of SIDS if their normal breathing pattern is disrupted. That’s why it’s crucial to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of tongue tie to make sure your baby is properly treated.
What are the Symptoms of a Tongue Tie?
When a baby breastfeeds, the tongue extends and curls into a U-shape on the mother’s breast drawing it deeper into the mouth. A tongue-tied baby has limited tongue motion which prevents the baby from latching onto the breast correctly and bringing it deep enough into the mouth to properly breastfeed. This can also cause the mother a great deal of discomfort, which is the first sign there is a possibility of tongue tie. Other tongue tie symptoms include:
- Difficulty staying attached to the breast.
- Sucking in at the cheeks or making clicking sounds while trying to nurse.
- Nipple pain during feeding that doesn’t improve. This can include scabbing, bruising, or cracking of the nipple.
- Excessive weight loss or failure to gain weight in an infant despite constant nursing.
- Difficulty sticking out the tongue past the lower front teeth.
- Trouble lifting the tongue or moving it side to side.
What are the Different Types of Tongue Tie?
Tongue tie, like lip tie, is broken down into different levels. Each level determines the severity of the case and where the frenum is attached to the tongue.
- Level 1: The tongue tie is attached to the tip of the tongue. This is the most common form of tongue tie.
- Level 2: The tongue tie forms a little further behind the tip of the tongue.
- Level 3: The tie is formed closer to the base of the tongue.
- Level 4: These posterior ties are usually underneath a mucous membrane covering and must be physically felt for a diagnosis. Babies are often misdiagnosed as having a short tongue in this case.
With the varying levels of tongue tie, some are more extreme than others. If your baby is suffering from a severe case and cannot digest their food, even having trouble with a bottle, surgery is needed to correct the tongue tie. Some levels of tongue tie allow more movement so your child could grow up with a tongue tie and never go through treatment.
It’s wise to understand the risks of delaying treatment for tongue tie, even if it isn’t directly causing breastfeeding difficulties. Children that grow up with a tongue tie can experience difficulty learning how to speak properly due to the lack of oral muscle control, or even have trouble doing a simple activity such as licking an ice cream cone.
How is Tongue Tie Treated?
Treatment for tongue tie is simple and fast and can be treated in a clinic. The procedure involves creating a small incision through the lingual frenum to restore the tongue’s full range of motion.
Barring complicating factors, the procedure can be done without anesthesia as the frenum is incredibly thin with few nerves so there is very little pain involved. An alternative procedure involves treating the tongue tie with laser surgery or electrocautery with a local or general anesthetic.
The recovery period for the procedure is usually a few days at most, however, most babies can begin breastfeeding within 24 hours. After the procedure, mothers often immediately notice improvement during the first feeding.
Contact Nia Pediatric Dentistry for Tongue Tie Treatment
At Nia Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, we focus on providing children with the best dental care in a comfortable and friendly environment in metro Atlanta. We offer routine dental care as well as hospital dentistry for babies, children, and teenagers.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s oral health or would like more details regarding tongue tie treatment, contact us today for more information.