Tongue-tied? Help is at hand!

Lip and tongue-tie are relatively common conditions that can affect around 5% of newborns and tend to be more common in boys. They can also run in families, so if you or any of your relations have had a lip or tongue tie, it’s a good idea to check your young child as they can often be missed.

Lip and tongue-tie – what is it?

Tongue-tie (or ankyloglossia) occurs when the frenulum (the thin membrane that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is unusually short and/or inelastic, or when it attaches to the tongue in a way that restricts normal movement. Tongue-ties can cause problems with breastfeeding, as the tongue’s mobility is restricted, causing the baby difficulty latching on.

Lip tie, as the name suggests, occurs when the membrane is attached to the inside of the lip at the front of the tongue, rather than beneath it.

What are the treatment options?

Whilst they can’t be prevented, the good news is that our KIDS dentists are skilled at helping babies, children and adults with these conditions. Lip and tongue-ties can be fixed with a straightforward procedure called a frenectomy, followed by simple exercises.

The frenectomy is done in our practice so there’s no need to travel out of town. A small incision is made under the tongue, separating the frenulum where it connects to the floor of the mouth. A precision laser them cauterises the tissue, stemming bleeding, killing bacteria, reducing oedema, swelling and inflammation and therefore allowing optimal healing. The frenulum is not well supplied with nerves or blood, therefore this procedure does not require any sedation when carried out during early infancy and is therefore very straightforward.

What if I don’t do anything?

Lip and tongue-ties restrict normal movement and can lead to issues with feeding and speech. In the longer term, leaving a lip or tongue-tie untreated can have a number of potentially detrimental effects, with increased risk of:

  • Juvenile type diabetes, allergies and gastrointestinal problems
  • Spinal development abnormalities
  • Dental decay
  • Development of speech problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Incorrect swallowing pattern
  • Orthodontic problems and facial development abnormalities
  • Reduced immunity to disease if your baby is unable to successfully feed from his/her mother’s milk

Lip and tongue-tie treatment can be more complex and take longer the later it is left, so early intervention is recommended. The KIDS team are always happy to answer any questions you may have, whether related to lip and tongue-ties or any other aspect of our service. Please speak to your KIDS dentist to see how we can help.

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