Tongue tie in scientific terms is referred to as ankyloglossia. It is a condition arising from the total or partial fusion of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.
The tongue is a muscular organ that has a variety of significant roles from the development of speech to aiding in feeding. It is a mobile organ that is attached to the base or floor of the mouth by a thin band of mucosa known as the lingual fraenum. In case the lingual fraenum remains short, a tongue tie may develop.
Ankyloglossia develops at or before birth or within the first month of birth regardless of the cause. The exact cause is unknown; however genetics could be a factor as tongue tie has been seen to run in families.
The prevalence of ankyloglossia reported in the literature varies from 0.1% to 10.7%. In general, males seem to be more affected than females.
Ankyloglossia is a congenital disorder which can have far reaching consequences starting from difficulty in breast feeding, to the development of speech and so on. The condition may be graded from mild to complete depending on the degree to which the tongue is fused to the floor of the mouth.
Mild cases of tongue tie may not require treatment. More severe cases may need surgical correction.
Signs of Tongue Tie
Some signs which a parent should consider as red flags are:
• Difficulty in breast feeding in an infant.
• Lisping in an older child.
• Difficulty in raising the tongue to the upper teeth or past the lower teeth.
• A tongue that appears notched when stuck past the front teeth.
All these signs should alert the parents to the possibility of a tongue tie.
Complications of Tongue Tie
An infant with tongue tie will cause great discomfort to the mother during breast feeding. During breast feeding, the tongue is placed on the lower gum followed by sucking. In case of ankyloglossia, this mobility is restricted. Therefore, the infant may bite instead of suckling causing significant pain to the mother. Added to this is the difficulty in swallowing which can compromise the child’s nutrition.
The pronunciation of certain sounds such as T, Z, Th requires the contact between the tip of the tongue and the palate. Because the mobility of the tongue is restricted, the T’s and Z’s will sound like S’s. If the speech pattern is not corrected at an early age, it may become a habit.
The tongue allows the removal of food debris from the mouth; the restricted mobilityin ankyloglossia compromises the access to the inner surface of the teeth. This compromises the oral hygiene resulting in tooth decay and gum problems.
The tongue is a muscular organ that also affects the growth of the upper and lower jaws as well as the position of your teeth. A child with ankyloglossia may experience crowding of upper and spacing in lower teeth, as well as a constricted upper jaw.