If you’ve recently welcomed a new little family member into your home, congratulations! The Children’s Dental Specialty team is so excited for you as you start this journey. Raising a baby is one of the most important things you’ll ever do — but it can also be one of the most challenging. Many parents think their new role will come easily, but the reality is that parenthood is full of unknowns. If your baby isn’t breastfeeding properly or gaining weight, it’s only natural to be concerned. One of your potential concerns as a new parent is how to tell if a baby is tongue tied?

Babies who have trouble latching, feeding or gaining weight may have a condition called “tongue tie” (medically known as ankyloglossia). Present at birth, tongue tie occurs when the band of tissue (called the lingual frenulum) that connects the base of the tongue to the floor of the mouth is unusually tight or short. Tongue-tied babies may have problems with breastfeeding and, if left untreated, may interfere with how a child eats, speaks and swallows.

As pediatric dentists in Scottsdale and Phoenix, we have plenty of experience in treating tongue tie in babies. If you’re worried your baby might be tongue-tied, we’re sharing everything you need to know about symptoms, complications and treatment options for tongue tie. Here’s how to tell if a baby is tongue tied. 

Symptoms of Tongue Tie in Babies

Before we look at the symptoms of tongue tie, it’s important to note that it’s always best to check with a medical professional if you think your child may have this condition. If you think your baby could be tongue tied, speak with your pediatrician, pediatric dentist or lactation consultant to get an accurate diagnosis.

In many cases, being tongue tied won’t cause your baby any problems. Other tongue-tied babies will struggle with breastfeeding, which can be problematic for both baby and mother. If you suspect that your child is tongue tied, here are some things to look out for:

  • Difficulty or inability to latch onto the breast
  • Baby tends to “chew” more than “suck” when feeding
  • Baby may make a clicking noise while feeding
  • Baby may be fussy during feeding
  • Difficulty lifting the tongue to the upper teeth or moving the tongue side to side
  • Difficulty sticking the tongue out past the gums or lower teeth
  • Tongue has a V or heart shape when sticking out
  • Slow weight gain

Additionally, breastfeeding moms may experience pain during and after breastfeeding, cracked nipples, inflammation or infection of the breasts, or low milk supply. Difficulties with breastfeeding due to tongue tie can also cause feelings of frustration and discouragement, or cause an early end to breastfeeding.

Do You Need to Fix Tongue Tie?

If your baby has received an official diagnosis from your doctor or pediatric dentist, the first question you probably have is, “Does my baby need tongue tie surgery?” Many children with tongue ties do not need intervention, while others will benefit from having a procedure to correct the issue. The decision to fix your baby’s tongue tie will depend on your personal beliefs, the severity of the condition and how it may affect your child in the future.

If you’re unsure whether your tongue-tied baby or child needs surgery, here are some things to consider:

  • Whether your baby is struggling with breastfeeding
  • How affected you are by breastfeeding a tongue-tied baby
  • If your baby’s tongue tie is likely to interfere with his or her speech, eating or swallowing in the future
  • If your child suffers from a speech impediment when he or she begins speaking

If you’re nodding along to most of these concerns, you may want to consider corrective surgery for tongue tie. Keep reading to learn more about your options.

Treatment for Tongue-Tied Babies

If you’ve decided you want to pursue treatment for tongue tie, there are two surgical options: frenectomy and frenuloplasty. The type of tongue tie surgery your baby will receive depends on how severe his or her tongue tie is.

Frenectomy (also called frenotomy) is a simple procedure that is performed with or without anesthesia in a doctor’s or pediatric dentist’s office. Typically, the doctor will use sterile surgical scissors to snip the lingual frenulum to allow for proper tongue movement. The procedure is quick and usually with minimal discomfort. At Children’s Dental Specialty, we also offer laser frenectomies for tongue-tied babies. It’s a virtually painless way to release tongue tie and improve breastfeeding success.

When the frenulum is too thick for a simple snip at the doctor’s office, your child may need a frenuloplasty. This procedure is done under general anesthesia using special surgical tools to release the tongue tie. The doctor will close the cut with stitches that will dissolve as the wound heals.

Is your baby struggling with breastfeeding or showing other symptoms of tongue tie? Our team of Scottsdale and Phoenix pediatric dentists offers complimentary baby dental exams and can let you know if your child is tongue tied. Contact us to book today.

Dr. Veronica

Author Dr. Veronica

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