Skip to Content

(785) 505-5000

Tongue-Tie

Topic Overview

What is tongue-tie?

Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a problem that is present at birth. It happens when the tissue that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth (lingual frenulum) is too short. This can limit the movement of the tongue.

See a picture of tongue-tie.

What causes tongue-tie?

The cause of tongue-tie isn't always known. It can run in families or may occur in babies who have other problems that affect the mouth or face, such as cleft palate.

What are the symptoms?

Many babies with tongue-tie don't have symptoms. The tissue either stretches as the child grows, or the child adapts to the tongue restriction. But some children with tongue-tie have:

  • Trouble latching on to the mother's breast and sucking. (Bottle-fed babies usually don't have feeding problems, because it is easy to get milk from the nipple of a bottle.)
  • Gaps or spaces between the front lower teeth.
  • Speech problems, because the tip of the tongue cannot rise high enough to make some sounds clearly, such as t, d, z, s, th, n, and l.
  • Personal or social problems related to the restricted tongue movement, such as problems cleaning food off the teeth with the tongue. A child with tongue-tie may be made fun of by peers.

How is tongue-tie diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam of your child's mouth and ask about his or her symptoms. In an older child or adult, the doctor may check the shape and movements of the tongue.

How is it treated?

If your baby is younger than 1 year of age and has problems with feeding, the doctor may do a medical procedure (frenotomy) to clip the lingual frenulum. If your baby has tongue-tie and is feeding okay, you may choose to wait and see if his or her lingual frenulum stretches on its own.

While you wait and see, you can also:

If tongue-tie causes speech problems or personal or social problems as your child grows, the doctor may do a frenuloplasty. In this surgery, the doctor clips the lingual frenulum and closes the wound with stitches. The doctor may also teach your child how to do tongue exercises to improve tongue movement.

Some children don't need treatment because they adapt to the way their tongue is or the problem gets better as they grow.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about tongue-tie:

Getting treatment:

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS)
1650 Diagonal Road
Alexandria, VA  22314-2857
Phone: (703) 836-4444
Web Address: www.entnet.org
 

The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) is the world's largest organization of physicians dedicated to the care of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) disorders. Its Web site includes information for the general public on ENT disorders.


KidsGrowth.com: Pediatric Health Care Alliance, P.A.
P.O. Box 1068
Oldsmar, FL  34677
Web Address: www.kidsgrowth.com
 

The KidsGrowth website, created by pediatricians, has children's health resources for parents and teens. It offers a free newsletter and information about child development, behavioral issues, and illnesses. The TeenGrowth interactive website (www.teengrowth.com) offers a secure environment for teens to get valuable information on topics such as alcohol, drugs, emotions, health, family, friends, school, sex, and sports.


La Leche League International (LLLI)
957 North Plum Grove Road
Schaumburg, IL  60173
Phone: 1-800-LA-LECHE (1-800-525-3243)
(847) 519-7730
Fax: (847) 969-0460
Web Address: www.llli.org
 

La Leche League International (LLLI) offers information and encouragement—mainly through personal help—to all mothers who want to breast-feed their babies. It also offers support and information about breast-feeding babies with various disabilities, such as cleft lip or cleft palate. Call for information about a chapter in your area.


References

Other Works Consulted

  • Breward S (2006). Tongue tie and breastfeeding: Assessing and overcoming the difficulties. Community Practice, 79(9): 298–299.
  • Hall DMB, Renfrew MJ (2005). Tongue tie. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 90(12): 1211–1215. [Erratum in Archives of Disease in Childhood, 91(9): 797.]
  • Reamy BV, et al. (2010). Common tongue conditions in primary care. American Family Physician, 81(5): 627–634.
  • Yoon PJ, et al. (2011). Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) section of Ear, nose, and throat. In WW Jay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., p. 485. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Chuck Norlin, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised May 11, 2012

Last Revised: May 11, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.