Ankyloglossia and Your Infant: Symptoms & Treatment

Certain oral conditions can affect the growth and development of children from birth. Ankyloglossia, also known as tongue-tie, is one of these conditions, explains the Mayo Clinic. Tongue-tie occurs when the attachment of the lingual frenulum, the flap of skin that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is too short, impeding the ability of the tongue to move as needed for daily functions. If an infant has trouble sticking their tongue out, it may be a sign that parents need to consult a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Incidence of Ankyloglossia

A review published by the Canadian Medical Association found that 4 percent to 10 percent of children are born tongue-tied.These figures varied over the analysis of five studies, because the assessment and diagnosis of ankyloglossia varies among medical providers. There is currently no standard attachment length or width of the connective tissue that marks what providers consider to be a definitive problem that requires treatment or surgery. In addition, the cause of tongue-tie is unknown, but may be genetically linked.

Symptoms of Ankyloglossia

Some difficulties with the lingual frenulum attachment being too short and left untreated include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Difficulties breastfeeding or bottle feeding
  • Speech impediments
  • Poor oral hygiene habits if there is difficulty in accessing the teeth with a toothbrush
  • Problems with the way the teeth develop and fit together
  • Psychological concerns if other children bully the child
  • Difficulty sticking the tongue out past the lower teeth
  • Having a tongue with a heart-shaped or forked appearance when the patient attempts to stick the tongue out

Treatment Options for Ankyloglossia

Proper assessment and diagnosis of tongue-tie is the first step in treating the condition. Medical providers often recommend the removal or release of the tight skin connection. There are a few surgical interventions that treat tongue-tie. The treatments to surgically alter the lingual frenulum include a frenectomy (the complete removal of the frenulum), and a frenuloplasty (slight alteration or reshaping of the frenulum). There is limited evidence available to support which of these surgeries is most successful, and this treatment varies from patient to patient.

Additional follow-up care may be needed for proper speech development following surgical intervention. These therapies may include speech coaching from a speech-language pathologist, accompanied by exercises to strengthen and improve tongue movement. With proper care and early intervention, the problems of ankyloglossia have often completely vanished by the time a patient reaches adulthood.

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Top Tips for Good Oral Care During Childhood

  • Brushing and flossing
    Begin using toothpaste to brush your child's teeth when he (or she) is 2 years old. Young children tend to swallow toothpaste when brushing, rather than spitting it out. Introduce fluoride toothpaste when your child is old enough not to swallow it. As soon as two teeth touch each other, floss between them once a day. You can use regular floss or special plastic floss holders.

  • Dental visit
    New parents often ask, "When should my child first see a dentist?” Your child should see a dentist by his or her first birthday.

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