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How Can I Tell if my Child is Tongue-Tied?

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Parents are understandably concerned when their children have oral conditions that interfere with their ability to breastfeed and swallow. Often, a diagnosis of a tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) brings some relief that the issue has been identified. But how do you know to talk to your doctor if problems present themselves in other ways? What are the symptoms of a tongue-tie, and where can you go for help?

The specialists at Cross Timbers ENT in Arlington, Midlothian, and Mansfield, TX can discuss your child’s condition and treatment options.

Below, we’d like to explain a bit more about this little-discussed condition and how to recognize it.

What is a tongue-tie?

A tongue-tie refers to a condition called ankyloglossia in which a child’s tongue has tissue underneath, attaching it too closely to the bottom of the mouth. This thick band of tissue is called a lingual frenulum, and it can make it difficult for them to move their tongues.

Most of us take our tongues for granted, but they help us eat and speak, often in ways we don’t realize.

What are signs of a tongue-tie in babies?

Ankyloglossia may be apparent almost immediately if the baby has a tongue that is short, heart-shaped, or unable to move. However, there can be minor forms of a tongue-tie that aren’t obvious until later on when the child has trouble lifting their tongue.

Instead, parents may first notice signs of ankyloglossia in infants who have difficulty breastfeeding. You may notice some of the following indications of a tongue-tie:

  • Poor latching

  • Inadequate weight gain

  • Frequent reflux or spitting up

  • Milk leaking out of the mouth

  • Clicking noises while breastfeeding

  • Frustration during breastfeeding but constant hunger

  • Very long breastfeeding sessions

  • Painful nursing for the mother, including:

  • Creased or flattened nipples following a feeding

  • Blistered nipples

  • Poor breast drainage

What are signs of a tongue-tie in children?

Not all signs of ankyloglossia are evident in infants. Sometimes, a diagnosis takes much longer, especially if it does not interfere with breastfeeding.

In many cases, it only becomes apparent later on while children have trouble eating or swallowing solid foods or experience a language delay. However, many of the symptoms of a tongue-tie overlap with other issues. Looking under your child’s tongue may not help as the tongue-tie can be very small.

Ask the specialists at Cross Timbers ENT in Midlothian, Arlington, or Mansfield if a tongue-tie might be at fault if you notice these possible symptoms of ankyloglossia:

  • Trouble with certain foods or textures (such as steaks, which require a lot of chewing, or mashed potatoes, that are soft but not liquid)

  • Frequent choking or gagging on food

  • Spitting out food

  • Packing food in the cheeks

  • Mumbling or trouble with certain speech sounds

  • A speech delay

  • Very slow eating

  • Sleep issues, such as restless sleep, snoring, or teeth grinding

How do doctors diagnose a tongue-tie?

A tongue-tie can be full, partial, or even posterior, so it’s important to remember that there can still be a tongue-tie even if you look under your child’s tongue and don’t see anything amiss. It requires a specialist to diagnose.

A specialist will begin by looking under the tongue to see if the frenum is very long (attaches all the way to the tip of the tongue). But often, there are no visible signs, and many doctors and dentists are not taught to look for posterior tongue ties. This is where the specialists at Cross Timbers ENT can help.

By lifting the tongue with the index fingers and examining how the connective tissue attaches, we can spot an almost invisible version of ankyloglossia by gauging the tension of connective tissues of a frenum.

However, children can have an irregular frenum and not have a tongue-tie as long as they don’t have any symptoms.

How are tongue-ties treated?

After a physical exam, if a tongue-tie is identified, the procedure to restore tongue function is simple.

A quick, in-office treatment to snip the problematic tissue is performed, and because this extra tissue is irregular, there are few nerve endings in the area to make the procedure painful. Babies often begin breastfeeding without trouble or frustration the same day.

Treat a tongue-tie in Arlington, Midlothian, or Mansfield, TX

Parents in Arlington, Midlothian, or Mansfield, TX can count on the specialists at Cross Timbers ENT to help diagnose and treat ankyloglossia and quickly get their family back to everyday life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation for an appointment.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.