The tongue is the organ most responsible for taste, as the top part contains the taste buds. It is found within the floor of the mouth, and assists in the manipulation of food via mastication. The tongue is one of the body’s most sensitive organs, and in addition to the role it plays in the consumption of food, it is also responsible for phonetic articulation.

What is ankyloglossia?

Ankyloglossia, which is also referred to as tongue-tie, is a condition in which the tongue has limited movement. It is first seen in newborns, and will consist of tight, thick collection of tissue which attaches the tip of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. A child who has ankyloglossia will have difficulty moving their tongue or sticking it out. It will also alter the way they speak, swallow or eat, and will make it difficult for mothers to breast-feed the child. Sometimes the child will be able to function normally, while in severe cases a surgical intervention will be needed.

In the majority of children the lingual frenulum will split shortly before they are born, which gives their tongue the ability to move freely. When a child has ankyloglossia, the lingual frenulum will not split, and will instead remain connected to the floor of the tongue. The precise cause for this condition is unknown to doctors, but it is believed to be a genetic defect.

What are the symptoms of ankyloglossia?

A child that is suffering from ankyloglossia will display a number of signs, all of which are related to functions involving the tongue or mouth. The baby will struggle to lift their tongue or move it sideways. The tongue may also have a heart shaped appearance. Symptoms which require investigation by a doctor include:

  • Difficulty breast feeding
  • Speech is adversely affected
  • Difficulty eating food

How is the diagnosis established?

Dr. Samadi will diagnose ankyloglossia in the child during the physical exam. If the condition is present in an infant, he may using a special screening device to measure the tongue’s appearance and examine its ability to move properly.

How is ankyloglossia treated?

Ankyloglossia treatment is considered controversial to many people, and has become a source of contention among some medical professionals. There are doctors who will advise correcting this condition as soon as possible, before a newborn child is taken home by the parents. Other doctors will advise parents to wait to see if the condition improves on its own. The lingual frenulum can loosen as the child gets older, which will resolve the problem. In other cases the child may grow up normally even though the tongue tie remains present.

Due to the high costs involved with surgery, ENT for Children recommends that parents of limited means wait to see if the condition resolves itself. If it doesn’t, and it continues to interfere with the child’s ability to eat or speak, a surgical operation called a frenotomy can be performed. After examining the lingual frenulum, the surgeon will use special scissors which have been sterilized to free the frenulum. This procedure is quick and pain is minimal as there are few nerve endings present in this area. Make an appointment with us today and let Dr. Samadi guide you further.