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How Pediatric Dentistry Helps Children with Tongue Tie

Posted on: Sunday, August 12th, 2012

In everyday speech, the phrase tongue-tied refers to an inability to speak or articulate an idea. Though the phrase does not usually allude to the condition after which it was named, around 3% of babies are born with a genuine tongue tie, a short or malformed frenulum attaching the tongue to the bottom of the mouth.

This condition can cause speech impediments as well as dental problems, but can be easily rectified with a simple pediatric dentistry operation by your local dentist.

What Does it Mean to be Tongue-Tied?

The frenulum linguae is the flap of skin that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. This small bit of tissue does not usually limit the movement of the tongue, except in cases of tongue tie.

Symptoms and Problems

When the flap of skin is too short or is located in the wrong place, it can cause problems from birth. A few of the symptoms of tongue tie are:

  • In babies, this may result in difficulty feeding from breast or bottle.
  • Tongue movement is limited, unable to move to corners of the mouth or past the lips.
  • The tongue may look more square or heart-shaped, rather than the usual pointed tip.
  • In older children, tongue tie can cause speech impediments or difficulty with certain sounds.
  • Lower front teeth may be gapped.

In severe cases, this condition is evident almost immediately after birth, since the baby cannot properly latch on to the breast or bottle to feed. Since a baby that is unable to feed will decline rapidly, these cases are treated quickly.

Further Changes Over Time

Some children may not show signs of the condition until they are old enough to brush their teeth or start speaking. Tongue tie limits the movement of the tongue so that it can’t move out of the way for teeth brushing or flossing. The same limitation makes it difficult to make sounds that require the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth, such as t, s, and z sounds.

Other problems that develop over time are tooth decay and oral infections. Since the tongue does not move aside for dental care such as brushing and flossing, buildup escalates, causing cavities and gum inflammation. If parents still haven’t noticed the problem at this point, the dentist will.

Treatment by Your Dentist

Treating tongue tie is a quick and simple process in children’s dentistry. For young babies that are unable to feed, the dentist will only need to administer a local anesthesia before clipping the excess tissue with surgical scissors or a laser. If the condition is recognized in a younger baby but does not seem to be causing any problems, the dentist may wait to see if the frenulum stretches out with time.

If the child is still showing symptoms at an older age, a general anesthesia may need to be used to perform the operation. In this case, the frenectomy will still be done in much the same way, but will require a few stitches to close it up.

It is important to see a pediatric dentist early; if left untreated it will cause more and more problems as the child grows older. Contact us to find out about pediatric dentistry in Somerville MA, or read more:

Children’s Dentistry at Avalon Dental Center

Sedation Dentistry
Periodontal Care

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160 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02141
Phone: (617) 374-9500

120 Temple Street
Somerville, MA 02145
Phone: (617) 776-9000

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5 Middlesex Ave # 305
Somerville, MA 02145
Phone: (617) 764-1781