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What you need to know about children's ankyloglossia

Updated: 2020-12-07


Ankyloglossia, also known as "tongue-tie," is a condition in which the lingual frenulum is too short, making the tongue protrude forward and resulting in the tongue's limited mobility.

1. Several misconceptions about lingual frenulum.

(1) Do babies have to "cut the tongue-tie" when they are born?

It depends. Studies have shown that some tongue-tie cases will resolve themselves as children get older, with the tongue adjusting to the normal position. For asymptomatic tongue-tie cases, observation is the suggested starting point.

Only when a tongue-tie case affects breastfeeding and regular feeding of infants should frenulotomy surgery be performed on the affected child.

(2) Some parents demand cutting the tongue-tie when they think their child's tongue is not sharp enough.

The human tongue itself has a variety of morphologies, independent of the lingual frenulum. Wide tongues are not harmful but probably indicate that an individual has a greater chance of developing a scalloped tongue in adulthood.

(3) Are all speech disorders caused by a short lingual frenulum?

No. Studies have shown that most speech disorders are age-related and may only be temporary dysphonia caused by the language center in immature brains. But a short tongue-tie may affect articulation and pronunciation, especially retroflex and palatal retroflex sound.

2. In which cases does the lingual frenulum need to be operated on?

Objectively speaking, the medical community has not yet formed a unified guideline for ankyloglossia. Referring to the International Journal of Stomatology's latest release on ankyloglossia's clinical progress and experience, the following three conditions are recommended for frenulotomy surgery.

(1) During breastfeeding, babies with short lingual frenulum cannot suck normally due to limited tongue movement, causing nipple pain for their mothers, or low sucking efficiency. After examination by doctors, surgery will be recommended and quickly performed if it is confirmed that the lingual frenulum is too short for breastfeeding.

(2) If a child has a traumatic ulcer caused by repeated rubbing of a short lingual frenulum against a newly erupted deciduous tooth when the lower anterior teeth erupt, surgery is recommended.

(3) Surgery is also recommended when a child's tongue is protruding forward, the tip of the tongue is W-shaped, the tongue cannot extend to the lips, and the lingual frenulum is confirmed to affect articulation and pronunciation, especially retroflex, by a specialist examination.

In short, what parents have to do is take their babies to the dentist regularly. Doctors will inform parents about the state of their babies' lingual frenulum and provide many useful oral care tips for children.