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The Ultimate Guide to Tongue Ties

Being a new parent is hard. Period. But one of the hardest aspects is navigating what your child needs. As a first-time parent, it is particularly challenging to discern what is “normal” and if something is wrong when it comes to sleep, feeding, and temperament.


One unexpected challenge is a tongue tie, a condition that can affect feeding, speech, and overall oral function. This blog will explore what a tongue tie is, its causes, common symptoms to look out for, and the available treatment options. We hope to give you the information you need to feel empowered and prepared to seek the support you need.


What is a Tongue Tie?

Tongue tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a condition where the lingual frenulum, the thin band of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is unusually tight, short, or thick. This restricts the tongue's range of motion, potentially affecting various oral functions.


What are the Different Types of Ties?

There are four classes of tongue ties. They do not signify the severity of the tie, but rather the positioning of the tie.









Class 1 and 2 are considered anterior tongue ties. This is where the frenulum is attached at or near the tip of the tongue, restricting movement.















Classes 3 and 4 are considered posterior tongue ties. These are further back on the tongue, where the frenulum is short and thick, also restricting movement.







Causes:

Tongue tie is usually present from birth and is often genetic. Research suggests it is an MTHFR genetic mutation. Current research is also suggestive that too much folic acid may be a contributing factor. However, the exact cause is not fully understood, but it can result from incomplete development during fetal development


Common Symptoms:

While there are a lot of symptoms researchers and doctors believe are related to oral restrictions, the most common ones in infants include difficulty with breastfeeding, poor or painful latch, body tension, insufficient milk transfer, reflux and/or gas, fussiness after feeding, poor weight gain, and prolonged feeding times. Other symptoms may arise in older children, such as speech difficulties, challenges with swallowing certain foods, dental issues, and oral hygiene concerns.


We will have a whole post on common symptoms


Diagnosis and Evaluation:

This is the hardest part. Getting a diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan is far more challenging than it needs to be and can lead to a traumatic experience for all involved. This is the whole reason Freed Up Mama exists.


Pediatricians, lactation consultants, and oral healthcare professionals can evaluate tongue ties. However, many if not most pediatricians and LCs are not up to date with the latest tongue tie research. Parents can often be dismissed in their considerations, or the tie will be released without consideration for aftercare or the baby's readiness.


In an ideal scenario, the medical professional will examine the lingual frenulum's appearance, assess the tongue's range of motion, and consider the impact on feeding and overall oral function.


Treatment Options:


The most common approach is a frenectomy, a simple surgical procedure that involves releasing or lengthening the frenulum to improve tongue movement. This is commonly called a “release”. This can be done with scissors or lasers. Current research suggests lasering is the most effective and efficient way to release a tie. Here is more on what to expect on release day.


Post-Treatment Care and Support:

In the 3-6 weeks following a release, stretches need to be performed every 4 hours to reopen the release wound. This prevents the wound from healing back to its original state, with the addition of scar tissue. In the case the wound heals too soon, the oral function will still be restricted and another release may be necessary.


Additionally, to avoid reattachment and to improve feeding, supportive care is crucial for optimal healing and improved oral function. Working with lactation consultants, speech therapists, chiropractors, other body workers, and other healthcare professionals can help address any ongoing challenges and ensure the child's overall development and well-being.


Conclusion:

Tongue ties can affect infants' feeding, speech, and oral function. Understanding its causes, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking appropriate treatment options are essential for parents to support their child's well-being. By working closely with healthcare professionals and seeking supportive care, parents can navigate the challenges of tongue-tie and empower their children to thrive in their oral development and overall growth.


Choosing whether or not to release your child’s ties can be challenging. It is an undertaking that needs to be taken seriously and the prep and aftercare needs to be taken as seriously as the release. However, please remember that early detection and intervention can significantly improve your child's quality of life.




*This blog is for education purposes only. It is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please seek a medical professional if you suspect your child has a tongue tie or other oral restriction.


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