The condition ‘tongue tie’ is also known as ankyloglossia. The movement of the tongue gets limited to an extent due to this condition in some babies. Normally, a tongue without this condition is able to reach almost every part inside the mouth. This complete and free motion of the tongue is necessary to be able to make different sounds while speaking. Not only that, it helps in swallowing as well.
Babies who are born with a tongue tie find these simple things a bit difficult to do. This is because they have a problem with the lingual frenulum, a membrane which connects the underside of the tongue with the floor of the mouth. If this small stretch of tissue is too short, tight, or attached near the tip of the tongue, it can limit tongue function for the baby.
Tongue ties can be anterior or posterior. Anterior is one which is at the front of the tongue while posterior is one which is at the back of the tongue. In comparison, if there is a tight tongue tie at the posterior, it could cause more problems in feeding than a loose tongue tie in the anterior.
Tongue ties can also be defined with the use of percentages, showing how far the lingual frenulum comes beneath the tongue. To explain this, 100% would mean that the tie is all the way till the front or tip of the tongue. At times, the tongue tie can also be hidden. This is a submucosal tongue tie and it gets hidden by the mucosa or tissue on the bottom of the baby’s mouth.
Tongue tie does tend to cause some problems for babies, especially during breastfeeding. There would be difficulty in latching and breast refusal due to that. A small gape could form making it feel like the baby is biting with unsettled behavior during feeding and frequently coming off the breast. This leads to weight loss, hiccoughs, wind, and vomiting, with difficulty in speech and eating solids in older children.
Bottle-feeding babies also face a few problems because of tongue ties. They take a bottle very slowly with quite a bit of dribbling during feeding and can only drink from a very slow flowing teat. They usually push the teat out and tend to choke during feeding even if it is slowed down. You can tell if your baby has a tongue tie if they are facing difficulty in extending their whole tongue, lifting it or moving it from side to side, and a heart shape forms on the tongue tip when they try to stick it out.
Tongue ties can be treated by a simple tongue tie division. In this the lingual frenulum needs to be incised or cut. It may sound painful but this is a very simple and quick procedure and almost painless for the baby. This simple incision results in a major improvement in the feeding, swallowing, and speaking actions of a baby.