Tongue tie (ankyloglossia) is a condition that restricts the tongue’s range of motion.
In other words, with tongue tie, the frenum (an band of tissue) that connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short, tick or tight, limiting the movement of the tongue. This can cause difficulty with breastfeeding, eating, speaking, and other oral functions.
This condition may be diagnosed during a newborn’s physical exam, however, it isn’t always easy to spot, and might become obvious only once your baby presents trouble feeding and consequently gaining weight.
Differences between the tongue and lip tie
Tongue tie is a condition in which the frenum, the small “string” that runs vertically from the floor of the mouth to the undersurface of the tongue, restricts the tongue’s mobility and make it difficult for the tongue to move. A lip tie cause restriction on the lip’s mobility.
A tongue or lip tie can lead to nursing, feeding, dental, speech, sleep, or breathing problems. Problems can even persist into adulthood with sleep issues, headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, and speech problems.
Signs of tongue tie in infants
To breastfeed successfully, a baby needs to latch on top of both the breast tissue and nipple, and their tongue needs to cover the lower gum so the nipple is protected from damage.
Some babies with tongue-tie are not able to open their mouths wide enough to latch on to the breast properly.
If you’re breastfeeding your baby and they have tongue-tie they may:
- Have difficulty attaching to the breast or staying attached for a full feed
- Feed for a long time, have a short break, then feed again
- Be unsettled and seem to be hungry all the time
- Not gain weight as quickly as they should
- Make a “clicking” sound as they feed – this can also be a sign you need support with the positioning and attachment of your baby at the breast
Other signs that may indicate your baby has tongue-tie include:
- Dificulty lifting their tongue up or moving it from side to side
- Dificulty sticking their tongue out
- Their tongue looks heart-shaped when they stick it out
Tongue-tie can also sometimes cause problems for a breastfeeding mother. Problems can include:
- Painful nursing
- Sore or cracked nipples
- Low milk supply
- Mastitis (inflammation of the breast), which may keep coming back
Signs of tongue-tie in children
- Sleep restlessly
- Slow or picky eater
- Choke or gag on liquids or foods
- Problems in speech development,
- Difficulty in articulating sounds and pronouncing letters L, R, T, D, N, TH, SH and Z
- Grinding, snoring, or breathing with moth open
Signs of tongue-tie in teens and adults:
- Psychosocial problems related to speech difficulties
- Neck and shoulder tension
- Sleep difficulties (snoring, sleep apnea, grinding teeth)
- Headaches and migraines