Tongue Tie Information

What is a tongue tie?   

Everyone has a tongue tie.  The question we should be asking is if the tongue tie is restricting the function of the tongue muscle.  The tie itself is a small band of tissue (a frenulum) that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. It is made of collagenous fiber that does NOT stretch.  The tissues and muscles around the tie may stretch to accommodate the ties, but the actual tie does NOT stretch.  It should be located in the middle of the tongue and connect to the middle of the mouth floor. The tongue is attached to 8 different muscles under the floor of the mouth. If the attachment is too far forward or too tight then the tongue cannot function properly. People often refer to this abnormality as being "tongue-tied." The technical name for tongue-tie is ankyloglossia. 

 

What are problems or symptoms that a tongue tie can cause?

Tongue-ties can cause problems with breastfeeding because the tongue is restricted in its natural wave-like movement of sucking and feeding. It can cause nipple pain, latch problems, and poor weight gain. Many babies will bite instead of suck, make clicking sounds with feeding, swallow air and have gas or colic issues, gag easily, have a shallow latch and pinch Mom's nipple.  Different problems may also occur later in life, such as swallowing/gagging/eating problems, speech problems, breathing issues, and dental complications. Research shows that a tongue tie procedure is a safe and effective treatment and  helps improve breastfeeding.

 

How are tongue ties treated?

The procedure to cut a tongue tie is called a frenotomy.  The laser procedure to remove a tongue tie is called a frenectomy.  In our office we perform this procedure with a CO2 laser which is safer, less painful, and more complete than clipping with scissors or heating and destroying the tissue with a diode laser.  The C02 laser frenectomy is  done in a laser safe procedure room in our office. We apply a topical anesthetic, then use a cold laser to anesthetize the area. The cold laser is painless and helps control pain and aid in healing. The procedure itself is very brief and your baby can go straight to the breast afterwards in our lactation room. Many mothers feel less nipple pain and a better latch almost immediately. After the procedure, some infants may feel pain for 1-3 days which can be managed.  Although it is a minor procedure, as with any surgical intervention, it does have some risks, including but not limited to bleeding, pain, allergic reactions, temporary numbness, injury to the mouth, scarring, or reattachment.