Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is
a problem that is present at birth. It happens when the tissue that attaches the tongue to the bottom of
the mouth (lingual frenulum) is too short. This can limit the movement of the tongue.
The cause of tongue-tie isn't always known. It can run in families or may occur in babies who have other problems that affect the mouth or face, such as cleft palate.
What are the symptoms?
Many babies with tongue-tie
don't have symptoms. The tissue either stretches as the child grows, or the child adapts to the tongue restriction. But some children with tongue-tie
Trouble latching on to the mother's breast
and sucking. (Bottle-fed babies usually don't have feeding problems,
because it is easy to get milk from the nipple of a bottle.)
Gaps or spaces between the front lower teeth.
problems, because the tip of the tongue cannot rise high enough to make
some sounds clearly, such as t, d, z, s, th, n, and
Personal or social problems related to the restricted tongue
movement, such as problems cleaning food off the teeth with the tongue. A child with tongue-tie may
be made fun of by peers.
How is tongue-tie diagnosed?
Your doctor will do a physical exam of your child's mouth and ask about his or her symptoms. In an older child or adult, the doctor may check the shape
and movements of the tongue.
How is it treated?
If your baby is younger than 1 year of age and has problems with feeding, the doctor may do a medical procedure (frenotomy) to clip the lingual frenulum. If your baby has tongue-tie and is feeding okay, you may choose to wait and see if his
or her lingual frenulum stretches on its own.
If tongue-tie causes speech problems or personal or social problems as your child grows, the doctor may do a frenuloplasty. In this surgery, the doctor clips the lingual frenulum and closes the wound with stitches. The doctor may also teach your child how to do tongue exercises to improve tongue movement.
Some children don't need treatment because they adapt to the way their tongue is or the problem gets better as they grow.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
1650 Diagonal Road
Alexandria, VA 22314-2857
The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck
Surgery (AAO-HNS) is the world's largest organization of physicians dedicated
to the care of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) disorders. Its Web site includes
information for the general public on ENT disorders.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.