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Understanding a Tongue-Tie: What It Is and How to Treat It

If you’re a new parent, you may have heard the term “tongue-tie” being thrown around. Or maybe you’ve been experiencing difficulties with speech or eating and you’re wondering if tongue-tie might be the culprit. In this blog post, we will explain what tongue-tie is, its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options to help you make informed decisions about your oral health.

What is Tongue-Tie?

Tongue-tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a condition that occurs when the band of tissue under the tongue, called the frenulum, is too short or tight, limiting the tongue’s movement. Consequently, possibly affecting feeding, speech, and oral hygiene. 

Anatomy of the Tongue and Mouth

The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth that helps us taste, chew, swallow, and speak. It is attached to the floor of the mouth by the frenulum, which is a thin piece of tissue. The frenulum should be flexible and allow the tongue to move freely. In some cases, the frenulum is too tight, causing restriction in the tongue’s range of motion.


The exact cause of tongue tie is unknown, but it is thought to be a genetic condition that runs in families. It can also occur as a result of a complication during fetal development.


Tongue-tie can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the severity of the condition.

A. Symptoms in Infants: In infants, tongue-tie can cause difficulty with breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Babies may struggle to latch onto the breast or nipple and may tire easily while feeding. This can result in poor weight gain and nutritional deficiencies.

B. Symptoms in Children and Adults: In older children and adults, tongue-tie can cause difficulties with speech, including trouble pronouncing certain words, lisping, or difficulty speaking quickly. It can also cause difficulties with eating, such as difficulty moving food around the mouth or difficulty swallowing.

C. Impact on Oral and Speech Development: If left untreated, tongue-tie can impact oral and speech development, as well as lead to dental issues and gum disease.

Diagnosis of a Tongue-Tie

Diagnosing tongue-tie can happen during a physical exam by certain healthcare professionals. They will examine the tongue’s range of motion and the appearance of the frenulum. In some rare cases, imaging tests such as an ultrasound or x-ray can diagnose the condition.

A consultation with a healthcare professional is important to determine if tongue-tie is the cause of the symptoms and to discuss treatment options.  IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT EVERY PROVIDER IS DIFFERENT IN THEIR TRAINING AND UNDERSTANDING OF ORAL MECHANICS.  Not every dentist, pediatrician, speech pathologist, lactation consultant and other specialists have the same knowledge base. It is important that you get a diagnosis from someone TRULY trained to assess for oral restrictions.

Treatment Options for Tongue-Ties

A. Conservative Treatment Options: In some cases, conservative treatment options such as stretching exercises or myofunctional therapy can be used to improve the range of motion of the tongue. However, these options may not be effective for severe cases of tongue-tie.

B. Surgical Treatment Options: Surgical treatment options include frenectomy, which involves cutting the frenulum to release the tongue’s movement. At Untethered Airway Health Center, we use a dental soft tissue laser called a LightScalpel CO2 laser that is the absolute best when it comes to precision, speed, and healing. It reduces risk as we are able to visualize what we need to operate on (the frenum) while still being able to see the structures we want to stay away from (nerves, vessels, salivary glands).

For babies, we use topical numbing jelly (safe for babies) when working with them. For older kids and adults, we use a topical numbing jelly and a local anesthetic that is a little bit stronger. Older kids and adults leave with a few dissolvable stitches that let the area heal in the best way possible. With babies and toddlers there are no stitches, but parents are given aftercare instructions.

C. Aftercare and Follow-Up: After the frenectomy, patients will be advised to do stretching exercises to prevent the frenulum from reattaching. It is important to follow the aftercare instructions provided by the healthcare professional to ensure proper healing and avoid complications.

Tongue-Tie Consultations at Untethered Airway Health Center

If you suspect that you or your child may have tongue-tie, it is important to consult a healthcare professional to discuss the best treatment options. At Untethered Airway Health Center, we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of tongue-tie and other oral health issues. Our experienced team is dedicated to providing high-quality care and personalized treatment plans to help you achieve optimal oral health.

During your consultation at our center, our healthcare professionals will evaluate your symptoms and perform a physical exam to determine if you or your child has tongue-tie. If necessary, we may also use imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis.  WE FEEL VERY STRONGLY that knowledge on your families specific situation is important to help you make an INFORMED decision in undergoing treatment for your child – not every family decides to do treatment, and that is ok!  We help you understand what longer term symptoms to look for in the future!

At Untethered Airway Health Center, we offer both conservative and surgical treatment options, depending on the severity of the condition. Our team will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan that meets your unique needs and preferences. We will also provide detailed instructions for aftercare and follow-up appointments to ensure the best possible outcome.

Don’t let tongue-tie impact your oral health and quality of life. Schedule an appointment at Untethered Airway Health Center to find the best solution for your whole health. Our compassionate and knowledgeable team is here to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more.
Want to learn more about tongue-ties? Take a look at our frequently asked questions about tongue-ties here.

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