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Tongue-Tie: What Parents Need To Know

Dentist Blog

A condition known as "tongue-tie" or ankyloglossia is a common problem found in many infants and young children. Often overlooked, this problem can have severe impacts on children's ability to do everything from nursing, eating ice cream, or speaking. For parents, understanding and recognizing this condition is important to ensuring that your child does not have to suffer and can get the help they need to alleviate the problem.


When babies are in the womb, part of the tissue that is still developing in the facial area is called the frenulum. This facial tissue slowly develops after babies are born and as children grow, helps to separate the various facial features such as the lips, cheeks, and the tongue.

If the tissue of the tongue does not properly form and separate all the way, it becomes twisted, which is known as tongue-tie. While there is no definitive cause for this condition, many doctors believe it is related to genetics. It can be especially hard for parents to notice this problem in infants, but as children grow the problem becomes more pronounced.


If you are concerned that your newborn or child may be suffering from tongue-tie, there are several symptoms to look for:

  • Infants who seem to spit up or dribble frequently may have tongue-tie. For breastfeeding mothers, you may also notice that your child is having difficulty feeding.
  • The tongue almost appears to be twisted, and you will typically notice a split or slit in the center or side of the tongue when it should be uniform in appearance.
  • Children with eating or speech difficulties could be coping with tongue-tie. If you're concerned, make an appointment with a pediatrician as soon as possible.
  • Low weight or slow to no increase in weight gain, gagging, and frequent vomiting are possible symptoms of tongue-tie in infants. 

Corrective Surgery

In most cases, surgery is the only way to correct tongue-tie. There are several different surgical options that parents can choose from depending on the age of the child, their medical history, and the severity of the problem.

The most common procedure involves snipping the frenulum so that the tongue can begin to form properly and fuse back together correctly. Children over the age of six months can typically have this tongue tie frenectomy procedure done. Laser surgery is another way to fix the issue and does not require the use of general anesthesia. Another option is to cauterize the tongue back together properly, and a local anesthetic is used. If you're concerned that your child may be dealing with tongue-tie, seek the advice of a pediatrician or child oral health specialist as soon as possible.


22 June 2016