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Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) affects around 4-11% of new born babies and is more common in boys than girls. Researchers suggest that approximately 1 in 10 babies may be born with some membrane under the tongue but only around half of those babies display significantly reduced tongue function. Tongue tie is sometimes diagnosed during a baby’s routine new born check however; this is not always easy to spot. A problem may not become apparent until there is difficulty breastfeeding.
If you’re concerned about your baby’s feeding and think they may have tongue tie, visit your GP or midwife
Tongue-tie happens when the string of tissue under the baby's tongue (frenulum), which attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is too short. Having tongue-tie can stop your baby from moving their tongue freely or sticking the tip of her tongue out past the lower front teeth.
Tongue-tie varies in degree. In mild tongue-tie, the tongue is bound only by a thin strip of tissue, called a mucous membrane. In the most severe cases, the tongue is completely fused to the floor of the mouth.
The tongue-tie procedure for babies under 4 months old is a simple procedure and only takes a few seconds to release the tongue tie using a pair of sterilised scissors. It is performed by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Consultant. It usually does not require any anaesthesia and can be done in an outpatient clinic. Sometimes you might notice a few drops of blood. The baby is fed immediately, by either breast or bottle.
Following the "division", you may notice a small white blister under the babies’ tongue, which does not interfere with feeding.
Older babies may need a general anaesthetic, which means they'll be unconscious throughout the procedure.
Benefits of having tongue-tie treatment are:
The frenulum (remnant tissue a part of the facial structure) usually disappears or reduces to a very slight membrane, which is elastic and does not disturb the tongues movement or disrupt function. Similarly, webs of tissue can also occur joining the cheeks or lips to the gums and these create a ‘tongue-tie’. When the frenulum does cause problems it is because of tightness, thickness or width and affects functions of the tongue in various ways.
The risks associated are rare. There is a very small risk of bleeding, infection or scarring of the frenulum requiring revision surgery.
It’s never too late to have the tongue-tie procedure. Adults with this problem have found after the procedure to have improved their daily life immensely. These include:
However, habits acquired while the tongue tie is present will be harder to get rid of in an older person. Speech therapy after surgical revision may be recommended.
Despite tongue-tie being very common, it’s often not diagnosed even when it causes problems. Tongue-tie often runs in families. Some relatives may only have mild effects or no apparent symptoms while others show a severe impact on structure and function.