You’ve probably heard the phrase tongue-tied to describe that feeling we all get when we just can’t get the words out. What you may not know is that tongue-tied is an actual medical condition that limits the mobility of the tongue, which can cause serious eating and speech problems for some people.
What is tongue-tie?
Before we are born, everyone has a strong cord of tissue in the center of the mouth that helps guide the development of all the structures in the mouth. This tissue is called the frenulum. After we are born, the lingual frenulum on the underside of the tongue continues to help guide the teeth into the correct positions. As we grow, this frenulum usually thins and recedes so the tongue has full motion. But in some cases, the frenulum is too tight or does not recede enough, which can limit how much the tongue is able to move. This is the condition known as tongue-tie or ankyloglossia.
Symptoms of tongue-tie
The tongue is one of the most important muscles we have when it comes to speaking and swallowing. For some people with mild tongue-tie, there are no serious consequences from the condition. But others who have very limited mobility in their tongues may need to have the condition treated.
A new baby with tongue-tie may have trouble sucking and may not gain weight as fast as expected. Some nursing mothers of a baby with tongue-tie may notice they are experiencing significant pain while nursing, or that the baby seems to have trouble latching on. If you are concerned that your baby may have this condition, talk to your pediatrician. You may be referred to an otolaryngologist, which is a doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat conditions.
• Toddlers and older children:
Some children with tongue-tie are able to adapt and speak normally. Others develop a speech impediment and may have difficulty with specific sounds including l, r, t, d, n, th, sh, and z. If at least half of your three-year-old child’s speech cannot be understood by people outside the family, talk to your pediatrician to see if the child needs further evaluation.