How to tell if your child has a tongue tie: what is this condition?

Tongue-tie, medically known as ankyloglossia, is a condition that can impact a child’s ability to feed effectively and develop speech properly. Identifying it early is crucial for timely intervention and management.

How To Tell If Your Child Has A Tongue-Tie: What Is This Condition?
Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is not just a colloquial expression but a genuine condition that can impact children. It arises when the piece of skin beneath the tongue is shorter than normal, limiting movement and potentially influencing speech, feeding, and oral hygiene in children. Early detection of the condition is crucial to initiate corrective measures that can mitigate associated difficulties. Dr. Tejal Shetty, a Pediatrician at Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital in Mumbai, emphasizes the importance of awareness about this condition.

What is tongue frenulum or ankyloglossia

What is tongue frenulum or ankyloglossia

“Tongue-tie, also known as ankyloglossia, occurs when the lingual frenulum, the band of tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is abnormally short or tight, restricting the tongue’s movement,” explains Dr. Shetty.

Typically, the tissue connecting the tongue to the bottom of the mouth loosens before birth, allowing for full tongue movement. However, in some babies, the frenulum remains attached.

While the exact cause is not fully understood, research suggests that genetics may play a role in some cases.

What is the prevalence of tongue-tie in children

A systematic review published in the journal Pediatric Research revealed that tongue-tie is relatively common among infants, affecting approximately 8% of children under one year old. However, it’s worth considering that various factors can influence reported prevalence rates:

1. Diagnostic methods vary: Studies employing standardised diagnostic tools tend to report higher prevalence rates (around 10%) compared to those relying solely on visual examination (approximately 7%).

2. Limited accuracy of current diagnostic tools: The review underscores the need for improved diagnostic methods to accurately identify tongue-tie, suggesting that reported prevalence rates may not reflect the actual occurrence.

What is the prevalence of tongue-tie in children

According to research from StatPearls Publishing, tongue-tie affects anywhere from 0.1% to 10.7% of individuals, with the wide range attributed to variations in diagnostic criteria among healthcare providers.

This variability has led to instances of overdiagnosis, particularly in recent years. Furthermore, some cases of tongue-tie may resolve naturally over time, contributing to higher prevalence rates in newborns (up to 10.7%) compared to older age groups (approximately 2%).

Notably, males appear to be slightly more affected by tongue-tie than females.

Signs Of Tongue-Tie

  • Symptoms of tongue-tie commonly encompass:

    1. Challenges protruding the tongue fully
    2. A heart-shaped appearance of the tongue when extended
    3. Difficulty maneuvering the tongue from side to side
    4. Struggles elevating the tongue to the upper teeth

    In infants, issues with breastfeeding, such as difficulty latching or insufficient milk transfer, are often indicative of tongue-tie.

Is It Possible to Correct Tongue-Tie

Dr. Shetty explains that tongue-tie can be corrected through a straightforward surgical procedure known as frenotomy or frenuloplasty. This procedure involves cutting or releasing the frenulum to enhance tongue mobility. It is commonly performed in infants as young as a few days old, particularly if they experience breastfeeding difficulties, but can also be carried out in older children or adults if necessary. The use of anesthesia may vary depending on the patient’s age and cooperation level. Post-procedure exercises and follow-up care are typically recommended to ensure the best outcomes. It is advisable to seek guidance from your physician or pediatrician to determine the most suitable treatment plan for your child.