How to Tell if Your Baby Has a Tongue Tie

Dec 4, 2020

Did you know that nearly 5% of children are born with tongue ties? Typically present at birth, a tongue tie can impair your newborn’s ability to latch when breastfeeding. The expert dental team at Stellar Kids Dentistry in Mukilteo, Everett, and Mill Creek, Washington, know that without early intervention, tongue ties can lead to malnutrition (poor weight gain) and speech problems.

While tongue ties are common in babies, many parents have never heard this term before. If you suspect your baby has a tongue tie, the pediatric dentists at Stellar Kids Dentistry can perform a dental exam to help determine your next steps.

What is a tongue tie?

A tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, occurs when short, tight connective tissue binds your baby’s tongue to the floor of their mouth. This limits the range of motion in your baby’s tongue. To work effectively, the tongue must be able to reach most parts of your mouth. When children have tongue ties, they can’t swallow, eat, or speak properly. 

Oftentimes, a tongue tie occurs alongside a lip tie. A lip tie can develop when the frenulum, the tissue that connects the upper lip to the gums, is too thick.

How do I know if my baby has a tongue tie?

You may be able to tell your baby has a tongue tie just by looking at the space between their tongue and floor of their mouth. Other common signs of tongue ties include:

Babies with tongue ties tend to make clicking noises when feeding. You may also notice your baby trying to chew rather than suck when eating.

What causes a tongue tie?

Normally, the lingual frenulum — the small piece of connective tissue that tethers the tongue to the floor of the mouth — separates before your baby is born. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

While doctors don’t know exactly what causes tongue ties, they do know that baby boys are 3 times more likely to develop one than girls.

What are the treatments for tongue ties?

The most common treatment for a tongue tie is a frenectomy. This simple procedure typically involves snipping the lingual frenulum with sterile scissors. However, at Stellar Kids Dentistry, we take extra measures by separating this small band of tissue with a dental laser.

Soft tissue laser techniques are gentle and precise. With laser dentistry, the Stellar Kids team can ensure that your child is as comfortable as possible during the procedure. Some benefits of performing a frenectomy with laser dentistry include:

  • Less bleeding
  • No pain
  • Accelerated healing
  • Shorter recovery time
  • No sutures

While laser dentistry is considered less painful than traditional surgery, the team recommends giving your child a safe dose of acetaminophen about 30 minutes before the procedure. This can help minimize discomfort, so they can relax during and after their visit.To learn more about tongue ties and how to treat them, call Stellar Kids Dentistry or schedule a consultation online now!