What is tongue-tie and how does it happen?
In the mouth of the developing embryo, several bands or strings of tissue are thought to guide the growth of certain structures. They are found under the tongue, under the top lip, near the rear molars and inside the cheeks.
The band under the tongue is known as the lingual frenulum. When it remains short or tight, it can restrict the movement of the tongue; giving rise to the term tongue-tie. Depending upon the literature between 2 -10% of babies are affected.
Treatment in babies
According to the ‘old wives’ tale’ many cases of tongue-tie were quickly and simply nicked by the midwife’s thumbnail!
Today, unless the tongue restriction interferes with feeding, many doctors will wait and see. In a number of cases the band of tissue recedes naturally and resolves without intervention.
Treatment in children
A persistent tongue-tie may affect speech by limiting the movement necessary for certain sounds.
• the tip of the tongue must touch the roof of the mouth to pronounce sounds such as ‘t, d, n, l, s, z’
• the tongue arches off the floor of the mouth to pronounce sounds such as ‘r’.
Treatment in adults
And finally, a residual tongue-tie can be released in adulthood to allow the full mobility required to lick an ice-cream, or lick around the lips – say after eating donuts!