Mr Prince Modayil, a leading London adult and paediatric ENT, shares his professional medical expertise with you. Learn from him about tongue-tie, the problems it can cause in children and adults, as well as the importance of treating the condition.
Tongue-tie affects many children
Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a condition that affects 4-11 per cent of newborns in the UK. When a baby is referred to as tongue-tied, it means that their frenulum (the strip of tissue that connects the baby’s tongue to the bottom of their mouth) is too short.
Tongue-tie affects feeding in newborns
Whether or not tongue-tie leads to short and long-term health problems is still under debate by some healthcare professionals. However, the answer remains clear – numerous problems can occur. For example, tongue-tie can result in a baby’s inability to feed and with many parents eager to breastfeed, they’re eager to have this resolved as soon as possible. This inability to feed makes tongue-tie able to be rapidly diagnosed during infancy.
Tongue-tie isn’t always diagnosed during infancy
Tongue-tie isn’t always diagnosed in the early year(s) of a child’s life: the condition can be diagnosed during adulthood. In the case of adults, dental professionals can be the ones to diagnose tongue-tie rather than health professionals - this is because there are long-term effects of skeletal and dental deformations.
Dental issues from tongue-tie in adults
In some cases, adults with tongue-tie experience an overbite, which is when a person’s top front teeth overlap the lower front teeth. A study of fifty-seven subjects in 2013 concluded that in mild, moderate and severe cases, tongue-tie restricted mobility of the tongue. While they found the condition was not severe enough to cause an open bite (when the teeth don’t align when the jaw is closed), tongue-tie restricted mobility of the tongue, leading to tongue thrust, which is when the tongue is placed between the upper and lower front teeth while swallowing.
Don’t neglect the treatment of tongue-tie
As an ENT surgeon with 18 years of experience in the field, it is my view that that tongue-tie and the various problems associated with the condition are too frequently neglected.
My procedures are performed in a clinic or in theatre – this depends on the age of the patient. Treatment involves snipping the tongue tie with scissors. It’s important to remember that this is painless for the patient and it causes very little bleeding. The snipped area will turn into a whitish spot after one week and it heals very well in a few days.
Babies can be breastfed soon after the procedure. What’s more, the success of the procedure is usually noticed immediately, with no antibiotics required. Following the procedure, it’s recommended to seek professional advice from a lactation consultant.
Do you suspect that you or your child has tongue-tie? As an expert in the diagnosis and management of the condition, Mr Modayil can help – visit his profile.