Tongue Tie, also known as ‘Ankyloglossia’ or ‘anchored tongue’ – is a common but often overlooked condition. Tongue-tie is a condition in which the thin piece of skin under the baby’s tongue (the lingual frenulum) is abnormally short and may restrict the movement of the tongue.
Tongue-tie occurs in about three per cent of babies and is a condition that may be genetic and is more commonly found in boys. The most immediate impact of a tongue-tie is on a baby’s ability to breastfeed effectively. It may interfere with a baby’s ability to latch and suckle at the breast leading to significant nipple pain and trauma, poor breast milk supply and a decrease in milk supply over time. Tongue-tie may also have an impact on oral hygiene and speech development.
Dr John Schulze, Practice Principal at Absolute Medical Services in Lisarow has been specialising in treatment of tongue ties for over a quarter of a century and is well recognised for his skill, compassion and expertise in this area. Dr Schulze explains ‘a baby with a tongue tie often cannot make the necessary movements that allow feeding to be satisfying for both mother and baby; instead, the experience becomes one of frustration for the baby, and pain, guilt and failure for the
mothers’. Schulze goes on to add ‘for these mums and their bubs a quick and effective tongue tie release treatment can be their saving grace’.
Tongue-tie and feeding problems for babies
Many babies with tongue-tie can breast and bottle feed successfully. However, a tight tongue-tie can interfere with a baby’s ability to breastfeed and, in some cases, bottle feed. Mothers may experience sore or damaged nipples and the baby may have difficulty drinking enough to gain weight.
Causes of tongue-tie
There are two main causes of tongue-tie. Either the frenulum is too short and tight, or it has failed to move back down the tongue during development and is still attached to the tongue tip. In the second case, a heart-shaped tongue tip is one of the obvious symptoms.
Signs that a baby could be tongue-tied
– sore nipples during and after breastfeeding
– squashed nipples after breastfeeding
– white compression mark on the nipple post breastfeeding
– Difficulty latching onto the nipple
– Loss in suction while feeding and sucks air
– Mouth making a clicking sound while feeding
– Failure to gain weight.
What to look out for-on baby’s tongue:
– can’t poke out past the lips
– can’t touch the roof of the mouth
– can’t be moved sideways to the corners of the mouth
– may look flat or square, instead of pointy when extended
– tip may look notched or heart-shaped
Seek help from a professional
Tongue-tie may be hard to diagnose in newborns – it is important to consult with your doctor, or health professional if you are having trouble breastfeeding.
Treatment for tongue-tie The surgical procedure performed to cut the lingual or labial (tissue in the centre of the upper and lower lip) frenulum is called frenectomy.
The baby’s head is held firmly and the frenulum is simply snipped (divided) with surgical scissors.
Babies can be breastfed immediately after the procedure.
Studies of this procedure have found few risks and associated issues with this type of treatment.
Problems are likely to be very rare, but can include bleeding, infection, ulcers, pain, and damage to
the tongue and surrounding area.
Many Central Coast mums have visited Absolute Medical Services seeking the advice of Dr Schulze
and his team of GPs, if you have any queries or concerns in this area please speak to your doctor or trusted health professional.
By Dr John Schulze
Absolute Medical Services, Lisarow