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Infant Tongue Ties

infant tongue tieSan Francisco and Marin CA

Bringing a new baby into the world is a major endeavor. You spend the months leading up to the birth preparing, nesting and making countless trips to the doctor. When your baby is born, this is a special time – and a busy time, whether you are a first-time parent or just welcoming the latest member to your brood. Many babies – approximately 8% of those born, according to Harvard Medical School – are born with ankyloglossia, which is the clinical term for a tongue tie. Glen Park Dental wants parents in San Francisco, Marin, Oakland and the surrounding areas to be aware of what a tongue tie is, how it affects infants and how our team provides treatment.

What is a tongue tie?

Everyone has frenums throughout their body. One of them, the lingual frenum, attaches from the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. When this band of tissue is too short, the tongue cannot move as it should.

For infants, the restricted range of motion in the tongue has significant impacts in three areas:

  1. Feeding – A tongue tie can make it difficult for a baby to feed properly, whether they are nursing or being bottle fed. An infant with a tongue tie may struggle to latch properly to the nipple or bottle. Babies living with tongue ties also may struggle to get or remain full when nursing. You might see milk leaking from the sides of the mouth when they feed. Other consequences related to feeding include a hindered bond between baby and mother, substandard weight gain or failure to thrive.
  2. Breathing –  The tongue plays a crucial role in breathing. When you are not eating, swallowing or speaking, the tongue should be at rest by setting gently against the roof of the mouth. By failing to achieve this posture, the tongue can impede the airway, especially during sleep. This can make your baby snore, diminish the quality of their sleep and even encourage the development of a serious sleep breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea.
  3. Growth and development – Proper resting posture of the tongue also helps to shape and guide the growth and development of the face, jaws and palate. When the tongue cannot rest or move as it naturally would, you may experience issues with this growth and development, as well as future oral health issues like a misaligned bite.

Symptoms of a tongue tie in infants

Do you notice any of the following behaviors?

  • Does your baby’s mouth pop on or off the breast or bottle when he or she feeds?
  • Does milk or formula leak out of the sides of your baby’s mouth during feedings?
  • Do they make gagging sounds during feedings?
  • Is your baby showing symptoms of reflux and/or colic?

Nursing mothers face their own potential issues due to a tongue tie in their newborn: pain when nursing, difficulty getting the breast to drain fully or diminished milk production.

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you should have your infant scheduled for an evaluation to determine if a tongue tie is present. 

Treating a tongue tie

Dr. Kimberlee Dickerson at Glen Park Dental specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of tongue ties in patients of any age, including infants. In fact, thanks to what we now know about tongue ties and advances in dental science, the majority of tongue ties are treated during the first year of life. We can release a tongue tie by severing the short lingual frenum, a procedure called a frenectomy that we perform with our soft tissue laser. Dr. Dickerson completes the procedure in just a few seconds, and with minimal bleeding, very little discomfort and an extremely low risk of infection. Once the frenectomy is complete, we provide instructions for after care.

Treating infant tongue-ties in San Francisco and Marin in California

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of a tongue tie is vital to the continued health and well-being of your baby. If you are noticing any of the issues listed on this page, schedule a consultation at Glen Park Dental today by calling (415) 585-1500 or contacting us online.