Toddler with Posterior Tongue Tie
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Posterior Tongue Tie: Complications and Treatment Options

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When someone is "tongue tied," it usually means that person is timid or does not know what to say. But when people talk about an infant being tongue tied, it means something quite different — they have limited range of movement in their tongue; as explained in this article by Department of Neonatology and Pediatrics, Cloudnine Hospital, Bengaluru, India; "ankyloglossia or tongue tie is a congenital oral anomaly characterized by an abnormally short, thickened, or tight lingual frenulum that restricts mobility of the tongue."

There are different types of tongue tie, defined by where the tissue that restricts movement is attached. Anterior tongue tie is more common, but it is also possible for an infant to have a posterior tongue tie.

What Is Posterior Tongue Tie?

The type of tongue tie a baby has is defined by where or how the tongue is attached to the floor of the jaw. Posterior tongue ties can be tricky to detect and are occasionally misdiagnosed. When a tongue tie is posterior, it is located beneath a mucous membrane. You can not really see it, so you or your baby's doctor has to feel around in the infant's mouth to detect it. Comparatively, anterior tongue ties are easy to spot. They're usually attached anywhere from the tip of the tongue to the base of the tongue.

Tongue Tie Complications

One of the biggest issues babies with tongue tie face is difficulty breastfeeding or eating. As the Babycenter describes it, this can stop baby from moving her tongue freely or sticking the tip of her tongue out past her lower front teeth. It can sometimes cause problems with breastfeeding if your baby can't suck well, meaning she may struggle to put on weight. It can also make your nipples sore and cracked as she has trouble latching on and break suction while feeding among other symptoms.

Without treatment, a tongue tie can cause problems later in life. Having limited tongue movement can make speech difficult. Tongue-tied children and adults have trouble producing "th," "l," "r" and other consonant sounds. A tongue tie can also increase a person's risk of tooth decay and other oral hygiene issues. When your child's first teeth come in, help keep them healthy by starting good oral hygiene habits early, such as by brushing with a Colgate toothbrush, which has extra soft bristles for gentle, yet effective cleaning.

Treatment for Posterior Tongue Tie

Treatment for a posterior tongue tie ranges from a "wait and see" approach to immediate surgical correction. It is possible for the tongue tie to loosen up and relax with time. But some doctors prefer to prevent any possible eating or speech issues by treating the problem before the baby goes home for the first time.

One of the most common surgical treatments is a procedure called a frenotomy. One study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology found that 85 percent of patients who had the procedure showed an immediate improvement in their ability to breastfeed. During a frenotomy, the doctor cuts the frenulum, the band of tissue that connects the tongue to the bottom part of the mouth. Often, a frenotomy is such a quick and easy procedure that it requires no anesthetic.

If your infant is having trouble breastfeeding or your older child is developing speech difficulties, it is a good idea to schedule a visit with your pediatrician to confirm or rule out a posterior tongue tie. Since a posterior tie can be difficult to detect, getting the opinion of a medical professional can help you figure out what steps to take next.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.