When Nursing Is Tougher Due to Tongue-Tie

by | Jan 7, 2016 | Biological Dentistry

As we discussed before, breastfeeding is ideal for an infant’s health and dental development. Yet try as they might, some children have trouble feeding properly. What stops them? A condition formally known as ankyloglossia, in which the frenulum – the thin bit of tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth – is too short, restricting movement.



More commonly known as tongue-tie, this condition affects nearly 4% of all infants and can make breastfeeding difficult for mother and child alike. A related condition, lip-tie – in which the tissue attaching the upper lip just above the upper front teeth is too short – can likewise interfere with feeding.

Both also can be corrected by a procedure called frenectomy (also known as frenotomy). It’s a quick and simple procedure in which the frenulum is surgically removed. In recent years, laser surgery has come to be preferred. No anesthetic is needed, and the results are better, with minimal bleeding and a lower risk of relapse.

As for the benefits – they were highlighted not long ago in a study published in the Journal of Applied Oral Science. Although the parents of just 14 of 109 total potential subjects agreed to the procedure when recommended for tongue-tie, all reported improvement of symptoms they reported at the start of the study:

fatigue during breastfeeding, long pauses between sucks for resting, short time between feedings (less than one hour), strong sucks, and less than two-hours of sleep between feedings. Other symptoms also reported were: slipping off the nipple, chewing on the nipple, hiccups, sounds during breastfeeding, nipple pain, regurgitation and coughing.

Though there was some potential here for bias, all improvements are ones that have been documented in earlier research.

The procedure allowed the children to feed more easily and, in turn, receive all the nutrients and antibodies a growing child needs. There seemed to be some suggestion, as well, that a smoother breastfeeding process bolstered the emotional connection between mother and child.



Of course, not all cases of tongue- or lip-tie necessarily need to be addressed surgically. A minor tie may cause no problems at all. But if your baby is losing weight by not getting enough to eat – or if nursing is uncomfortable for the mother – tongue/lip release surgery may be something to look into.

Other common symptoms of a problematic tongue- or lip-tie include

  • Poor latch.
  • Slides off nipple or falls asleep while trying to latch.
  • Colic symptoms.
  • Reflux symptoms.
  • Continuous feedings.
  • Gumming the nipple.
  • Unable to take a pacifier or bottle.
  • Creased, cracked, bruised, blistered or bleeding nipples.

If you have concerns about tongue- or lip-tie, give us a call for a consultation. We’d be happy to speak with you.

Images via BreastfeedingMaterials.com & Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond

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