A lot of mothers associate their child’s speech delay with tongue. However, several researches by medical experts
have shown that there is no association between the two scenarios.
Tongue-tie also known as ankyloglossia is a congenital condition (present at birth) that restricts the movement of the
tongue’s range of motion, this occurs as a result of the band of tissue (lingual frenulum) which tethers the bottom of the
tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth. The lingual frenulum might be too thick, tight, short or attached way up near the
top of the tongue either way, it ties the tongue in place which restricts it’s movement . The tongue will often have a heartshaped
appearance when the child tries to stick it out.
Signs and symptoms
Many tongue-tied children will not have symptoms, and the family may notice that over time the tongue is able to protrude
farther as the lingual frenulum stretches. For those that have symptoms some of them include:
- difficulty lifting the tongue to the upper teeth or moving the tongue side to side.
- trouble sticking out tongue past the lower front teeth.
- a tongue that appears notched or heart-shaped when stuck out.
- tends to chew more than suck.
- seems hungry all the time.
- fussy when feeding.
The cause of tongue-tie is unknown, although some cases of tongue-tie have been associated with certain genetic
When To See a Doctor
- your baby has trouble breastfeeding.
- if it interferes with speech or eating.
- if the tongue can’t get to the back of the mouth.
Tongue-tie is usually diagnosed during a physical examination. For infants, the doctor might use a screening tool called
tongue depressor or score various aspects of the tongue’s appearance and ability to move.
The treatment of tongue-tie is controversial with few experts recommends correcting it right away even before leaving
the hospital, most experts prefer to wait as it resolves on its own most times or could persist without causing any
problems , which is a less painful option for the newborn.
Surgical treatment of tongue-tie may be needed if it causes problems, the procedures are of two types depending on the
extent of the attachment. The procedures are:
Frenotomy: a simple surgical procedure which can be done in the hospital without anesthesia. The doctors exams the
lingual frenulum and then uses a sterile scissors to snip the frenulum free. The procedure is quick and the discomfort is
minimal with not much bleeding .
This is a more extensive procedure which is recommended if the lingual frenulum is too thick for Frenotomy or it needs
additional repair. It is carried out under general anesthesia with surgical tools. The wound is sutured after the frenulum
has been released, the suture absorbs on its own as the tongue heals.
Complications from tongue-tie
To do its job well, the tongue needs to be able to reach almost every part of your mouth. That full range motion let’s you
make different sounds when you speak, helps one swallow and also sweep away bits of food to keep mouth clean.
Some of the complications from tongue-tie include :
-Breastfeeding problems: breastfeeding requires babies to keep their tongues over the lower gum while sucking. If a
child is unable to lift the tongue or keep it in the right position, the baby might chew instead of suck on the nipples. This
can cause significant nipple pain and can interfere with a baby’s ability to get breast milk. Ultimately poor breastfeeding
can lead to inadequate nutrition and failure to thrive . One might need to confirm from a lactation consultant to be sure
tongue-tie is the reason for the baby not getting enough breast milk or it’s as a result of inappropriate latching on the
- Speech difficult: tongue-tie interferes with the ability to make certain sounds. Such as, ‘t’, ‘d’, ‘z’, ‘s’, ‘th’, ‘r’and ‘i’.
- Poor oral hygiene: for older children or adult, tongue-tie can make it difficult to sweep food debris from the teeth. This
can contribute to tooth decay and inflammation of the gum (gingivitis).
- challenges with other oral activities: it can interfere with activities such as licking an ice-cream cone, licking the lips,
kissing or playing a wind instrument.
Experts from Massachusetts Eye and Ear hospital carried out a research borne out of the increased rate of tongue-tie
surgeries. The study found out that two-third of babies referred for surgeries do not need it . Also, they found out tonguetie
affects feeding but not always as 63% of those referred for surgery were able to feed successfully with the help of a
lactation specialist, and those with speaking difficulty were assisted by a speech and language specialist. Some UK
experts also supported the outcome of the study when the confirmed most of the surgical procedures could have been
avoided with the right support.
Tongue-tie will not affect a child’s ability to learn speech and will not cause speech delay, but it may cause issues with
articulation or the way some words are pronounced.
Be sure your child has tongue-tie before some money-driven health worker charge you for an unwarranted procedure. Stay