Like many new parents, you want to learn as much as possible about how to care for your infant. The right diaper to use, the best bottle and even how to track their milestones to make sure they’re “on target” with growth and development.
But, how much do you know about tongue ties and how they can impact your child? There’s a lot to learn and it’s not just about a lack of tongue mobility. We’ve pulled some information together for you in this blog.
What Is a Tongue Tie?
A tongue tie is an abnormal condition in which one or both sides of the baby’s tongue are tied to the floor of the mouth by a cord of tissue. Its medical name is lingual frenulum hypertrophy (LFH). This condition usually occurs when the tissue between the two sides of the tongue becomes too thick and tight. If left untreated, it could lead to speech difficulties, breathing problems, feeding issues, ear infections, tooth decay, drooling and more.
How Common Are Tongue Ties?
Tongue ties affect approximately one out of every 100 babies. They occur in both boys and girls. However, they are slightly more common in boys, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What Causes Tongue Ties?
There are several theories on what causes a tongue tie. One theory suggests that a tongue tie is caused by a lack of space in the mouth during gestation. Still another theory states that the tongue may be stuck due to the position of the head in relation to the pelvis.
The most common cause of a tongue tie is genetics. Babies that have a parent who has a tongue tie are at a higher risk of having one themselves. Other factors include premature birth, low birth weight, being born via cesarean section, and having siblings with tongue ties.
Is a Tongue Tie a Big Deal?
A tongue tie may not seem like that big of a deal when your child is an infant, but it can have an impact on their overall health and development while they’re in the baby stage, and there are future implications as well.
A baby with a tongue tie may have symptoms such as:
Drooling. A tongue tie makes it difficult for a baby to control saliva flow.
Difficulty swallowing. When food gets caught in the back of the throat because the tongue cannot move freely, it can become uncomfortable for a baby. When your child starts solid foods, you may find that they have swallowing difficulties, have aversions to some textures and are a “picky eater.”
Difficulty speaking. Babies with a tongue tie tend to have trouble forming words properly.
Ear infections. Ear infections are very common among children with a tongue tie.
Tooth decay. Because of the difficulty in controlling saliva flow, babies with a tongue tie are at greater risk of developing tooth decay.
Feeding problems. Babies with a large tongue can find it hard to get enough air into their lungs to breathe while they nurse, causing interruptions in feeding and painful gas. In many cases, infants with tongue ties cannot adequately latch when breastfeeding and cannot perform the sucking mechanism because of limited tongue mobility, which can result in nipple pain, frustration and more for moms. Bottle feeding can also be a struggle for babies with tongue ties.
Poor oral hygiene. Older children and adults with a tongue tie may have difficulty getting their toothbrush in hard-to-reach places.
Failure to Thrive and Tongue Ties
Babies with a tongue tie and other tongue-related issues may be diagnosed with a failure to thrive because they do not get enough nutrients. This is because they’re unable to properly nurse or take a bottle in many instances. The signs of failure to thrive include:
Weight loss. Weight loss is a sign of poor nutrition. Infants with tongue ties may also trigger low milk supply in nursing moms and just do not get enough to eat.
Decreased activity level. Children with a tongue tie may be lethargic and tired.
Increased sleepiness. Babies with a smaller tongue size are more likely to fall asleep easily and stay asleep longer than other kids.
Increased crying. Babies with a larger tongue size are more likely to cry louder and harder than other babies.
Tongue Tie Symptoms
If you notice any of these symptoms in your baby or have breastfeeding difficulties with your infant, it’s important to consult your doctor immediately. If left untreated, some of these issues could lead to long-term health and development problems than can plague them into adulthood, including:
Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops briefly throughout the night. It is a serious health condition and can impact children and adults. It can also increase the chance of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and obesity later on in life.
Heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Studies show that people with a history of sleep apnea are much more likely to develop heart disease. This includes adults and children.
High blood pressure. High blood pressure is another serious health issue that can affect both adults and children. In fact, studies show that children who suffer from sleep apnea are at an even higher risk of developing hypertension.
Diabetes. People with sleep apnea are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Studies show that people who suffer from sleep apnea are twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to those without.
Obesity. Obesity is one of the most significant public health challenges facing our nation today. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly two-thirds of American adults are obese. And according to the CDC, over half of all children ages 6 to 11 years old are overweight or obese.
How Is a Tongue Tie Treated?
A tongue tie should always be addressed by a pediatrician or family physician. Your child’s doctor will perform a physical examination and check the child’s growth and development. The doctor will then recommend treatment options based on your child’s needs. Treatment options include a simple procedure, usually a laser surgery, and myofunctional therapy tongue exercises to retrain the tongue to overcome feeding difficulties, speech articulation issues and swallowing problems.
Do you suspect a tongue tie in your infant or child? Call us now to schedule a consultation.