Tongue tie, medically known as ankyloglossia, is a relatively common condition present at birth – it’s estimated that approximately 10% of babies are born with a tongue tie. It is often more common in boys and can be genetic.
The strip of tissue, or lingual frenulum, that connects the tip of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth usually detaches before birth, but if it fails to do so, then it can restrict the tongues normal range of movement. Sometimes tongue tie might not cause complications, but, in many cases, it can make it harder for the baby to feed, particularly with breastfeeding. This is often the first indication.
It can increase the risk of tooth decay or cause speech difficulties in later life. Tongue ties can be categorised as anterior, which means at the front of the tongue, or posterior is further back under the tongue.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is tongue tie diagnosed?
Tongue tie is not checked for at birth as part of the standard new-born assessment If you suspect your baby has a tongue tie, your doctor should diagnose it during a physical examination.
How is tongue tie treated?
If tongue tie is causing complications, a frenotomy or frenuloplasty might be recommended.
Mr Juling Ong can perform a frenotomy either with or without anaesthesia, using sterile scissors to snip the lingual frenulum. The procedure is rapid and is performed on a day case basis. Discomfort is typically minimal as there are very few nerve endings in the area and many babies even sleep through it. There are also very few blood vessels in the area, so there is likely only to be minimal amount of bleeding.
A frenuloplasty is performed if the lingual frenulum is too thick to be snipped with scissors, additional repair is needed, or the child is older. The frenulum is released with a scalpel and dissolvable stitches used.
Older children and adults can have tongue tie surgery, but this may be performed under general anaesthetic.
How quick will recovery be after tongue tie surgery?
There is usually a little discomfort after surgery, but most babies will resume breastfeeding immediately afterwards. The experience may feel different for both baby and mother initially.
Are there any complications associated with ankyloglossia surgery?
These procedures are usually low risk. If performed under a general anaesthetic, you may experience a reaction to the anaesthetic. Other risks include:
• Poor wound healing
• Damage to the salivary glands or tongue
• The frenulum reattaching itself to the base of the tongue