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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is ankyloglossia?

Ankyloglossia is also called tongue-tie. It is a condition that prevents your child's tongue from moving as freely as it should. The tongue is connected to the floor of the mouth by a thin piece of tissue called the frenulum. Your child's frenulum may be shorter, thicker, or tighter than it should be. Ankyloglossia can range from mild to severe depending on how much it decreases movement of the tongue.

What increases my child's risk for ankyloglossia?

Ankyloglossia is a congenital condition, which means that your child was born with it. It may run in families and is more common in boys than in girls. Mothers with history of cocaine abuse have a higher risk of having a child with ankyloglossia. It is also seen in children with certain genetic problems.

How is ankyloglossia diagnosed?

Your baby's healthcare provider will ask if your child has problems with feeding. The provider may watch your baby during breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Your older child's provider will ask your child to stick out his or her tongue and lift it upwards. This is to check the softness and length of the frenulum. Tell your child's provider if other family members have had the same condition.

How is ankyloglossia treated?

Mild ankyloglossia in babies may not be treated if your baby does not have feeding problems. The inside of your child's mouth will change in size and shape during the first 4 to 5 years of life. When teeth start to come in, the tongue grows and will narrow at the tip. Over time, the frenulum may grow, stretch, and even come loose on its own. Your child may need surgery if speech or feeding problems are severe. Surgery may be used to cut or remove the frenulum.

What are the risks of ankyloglossia?

  • Your baby may have problems latching onto the breast during breastfeeding, or problems bottle feeding. Your baby may not get enough milk because of the condition. Breastfed babies may suck even harder and this may cause breast pain in mothers. Older children may have problems with swallowing chewed food or clearing food from the mouth.
  • Food may get trapped inside your child's mouth. This can cause a bad smell and start tooth decay. Some teeth may not form well. Your child may also have spaces between the bottom teeth.
  • Ankyloglossia will not prevent or delay your child's ability to talk. This condition may only cause problems in how your child can say or pronounce some words. Words with the tongue sounds may be hard to say, such as the T, D, L, TH, and ST sounds.
  • Your child may have problems doing what other children can easily do. These may include licking an ice cream cone or sticking the tongue out completely. Your child may also have problems playing wind instruments such as the flute.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child refuses to feed at all.
  • Your child shows signs of dehydration from not feeding well. These signs may include urinating less than usual, crying without tears, or having dry, chapped lips. Your infant may have a sunken fontanel (soft spot) on the top of the head.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your baby has problems with latching onto your breast during breastfeeding.
  • Your baby is not satisfied after feedings, or you are having severe nipple pain when breastfeeding.
  • You are concerned that your baby is not getting enough breast milk or formula during feedings.
  • You find breastfeeding painful.
  • Your child has problems swallowing food.
  • Your child has problems saying some words or speaking.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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