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Did You Know Not All Tongue Ties Need Correction?

Published in Family Medicine, Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Jessica Najarian-Bell,MD

We all have an attachment under our tongue called a sublingual frenulum. It’s necessary to anchor your tongue to your mouth.

But in some people, the sublingual frenulum is too restrictive and doesn’t allow the tongue to move around as it should. When that happens, it’s called ankyloglossia — also known as tongue tie.

So, what’s the big deal?

The subject of tongue ties has been increasingly present and polarizing in the news media and on social media. In some communities, infants and children are being diagnosed and treated for ankyloglossia at an increasing rate.

While some medical professionals believe tongue ties make it difficult for infants to breastfeed and present speech articulation challenges later in life, others support more research because it’s more complex than that.

The corrective procedure is called a frenotomy — it cuts the restrictive attachment that causes a tongue tie using scissors or a laser.

Health risks associated with the procedure include:

  • Bleeding
  • Hematoma formation
  • Tissue damage
  • Nerve injury
  • Burns (if the procedure is done with a laser)

It’s important to note that any medical procedure, regardless of how minor, can have consequences.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the Academy of Otolaryngology (ENT) both support more research on the association between tongue ties and difficulties in breastfeeding and speech articulation.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) strongly encourages any treating physician who is considering a tongue-tie release to have a high level of clinical skill, judgment and discernment.

Not all infants with ankyloglossia need to have a frenotomy. We know that breastfeeding can be challenging for any lactating parent. A lactation consultant may be able to help you overcome some of these initial challenges.

The most important things for you as a parent are to have access to necessary information and to feel comfortable and heard in a judgment-free setting.

If tongue-tie release or lip or cheek tie clipping has been recommended for your baby by someone other than their primary care provider, please consider consulting with your child’s primary physician. Intervention is usually not necessary.

For more information about tongue ties, make an appointment to speak with your child’s primary care provider.