Does Your Child Have Tongue-Tie? How A Dentist Can Help

Ankyloglossia, or tongue-tie, is a condition where tissue that attaches to the tongue's underside is too short and tight. This tissue, or frenulum, normally thins and gives total flexibility, but for some children, their frenulums stay too tight which can cause oral health problems. Read on to learn more about this condition and how to treat it.

What causes it and what symptoms should you look for?

Researchers aren't quite sure what causes tongue-tie, but it may tend to run in families. If your child has tongue-tie, you might notice that he or she

  • has or had trouble breastfeeding

  • has or had delayed speech

  • has or had pain or trouble swallowing

While this condition may be concerning, the good news is that it can be easily corrected by your family dentist.

How do dentists treat tongue-tie?

The actual procedure may only take a few minutes. Your dentist will use a laser or sterile scalpel to snip a portion of the lingual frenulum so that the tongue can move more freely. Your child won't need general anesthesia, only a mild numbing gel. Frenulums don't have many nerve endings or vessels compared to other tissues, meaning that there won't be much bleeding or pain. If your dentist uses a CO2 laser to remove the tissue, the bleeding may minimal since these devices are very good at stopping blood flow.

What is the recovery like?

Your child might have mild spotting or bleeding after the procedure, but he or she can return to normal activities afterward. One of the most important things after this procedure is for your child to actually stretch his or her tongue. Tissues in the mouth typically heal quickly, so the frenlum attachment could actually heal too soon and then the procedure would need to be redone.

If your child is still a baby, your dentist may need to show you how to gently stretch the base of the tongue for your child. You can get disposable gloves and gently do this stretch during the times you usually wipe your baby's gums clean to remove bacteria. If your child is old enough to understand directions, the dentist can show him or her how to stretch the tongue.

Your dentist will also tell you what types of over-the-counter pain relievers may be used if your child is a little sore.

Reach out to a family dentist in your area for more information.