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Tongue-Tie - Complications, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Is your child having difficulty breastfeeding? Are you unaware of what is restricting your child? Here is the article which discusses tongue-tie and its complications.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At April 1, 2022
Reviewed AtNovember 10, 2022


For the tongue to do all its functions, it should be able to reach every part of the mouth. This full range of motion helps you to speak by making different sounds. It also helps in swallowing and sweeping away the food particles sticking in the mouth and helps keep the mouth clean. In this condition, known as "tongue-tie," the tongue is literally tied to the floor of the mouth, restricting speech, eating, and other activities involving a range of motion. Tongue-tie is a common condition seen in around five percent of all newborns, and it is three times more common among boys than girls.

What Is Tongue-Tie?

Tongue-tie refers to a condition in which the lower side of the tongue is attached to the floor of the mouth, restricting it from moving freely. This happens when the strip of tissue called the lingual frenulum that connects the tongue and the floor of the mouth is shorter than normal. It is otherwise known as ankyloglossia. This is a condition that has been present since birth.

How Is Tongue-Tie Developed?

When an embryo is growing in the womb, the tongue and the floor of the mouth fuses together, and eventually, the tongue separates from the floor of the mouth, and finally, only a thin cord of tissue connects the bottom of the tongue with the floor of the mouth and as the child grows the lingual frenulum thins and shrinks whereas in children with tongue-tie the lingual frenulum stays thick and does not recede restricting the movement of the tongue.

How to Know if My Baby Is Tongue-Tied?

Tongue-tie is associated with difficulties in breastfeeding. Tongue-tie is often noticed when the baby is finding it hard to breastfeed. The symptoms are different in each child, and some children may not have any symptoms, whereas some may have noticeable symptoms. The other symptoms that can be noticed in a baby with tongue-tie include the following:

  • The baby tends to chew more than sucking.

  • Difficulty latching while breastfeeding.

  • Baby does not gain weight as expected.

  • Breastfeeds for a long time.

  • The baby is fussy when trying to breastfeed.

  • The baby makes a clicking sound while feeding.

  • The baby seems hungry all the time.

  • The baby may not be able to move the tongue from side to side and cannot reach the tongue to the roof or upper gums of the teeth. They may also find it hard to put their tongue out of their mouth.

In young children, here are a few commonly noticed symptoms, which include:

  • Impairment in speech.

  • Difficulty in swallowing.

  • Not being able to lick ice cream.

  • Problems sticking the tongue out.

  • Difficulty kissing.

  • Difficulty in moving the tongue towards the roof of the mouth or sideways.

In addition to finding certain symptoms in the baby, the mother might also have a few symptoms like:

How Is Tongue-Tie Classified?

Coryllos ankyloglossia grading scale is used to classify the tongue-tie types. The types include:

  • Type I:

In type I, the lingual frenulum is thin and elastic and attaches the tip of the tongue to the ridge behind the lower teeth.

  • Type II:

In type II the frenulum is fine and elastic, and the tongue is attached 2 to 4 millimeters from the tip to the floor of the mouth.

  • Type III:

In type III, the frenulum is thick and stiffened and connects the tongue from the middle of the lower side of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

  • Type IV:

In type IV, the lingual frenulum is posterior, or sometimes it is not visible. Only when touched is the tongue-tie noticed.

Along with the Coryllos grading scale, the Hazelbaker assessment tool (HATLFF) is also used to determine tongue function.

How Does Tongue-Tie Affect Breastfeeding and Speech?

Tongue-Tie and Breastfeeding:

For breastfeeding, an adequate seal is required for which the baby has to extend their tongue over the jawline, whereas in the case of tongue-tied babies, this is not possible, and so they use their gums to keep the nipple in the mouth while breastfeeding.

Tongue-Tie and Speech Impairment:

The exact pathology behind how tongue-tie affects speech is still not clear. But however, it is found that the tongue needs contact with the roof of the mouth to pronounce certain lingual sounds like "t," "d," "z," "n," "l," "s," and "th." In the case of tongue-tie, the baby cannot move the tongue to reach the roof of the mouth, so they have difficulties with pronunciation.

How Is Tongue-Tie Diagnosed?

Tongue-tie is usually diagnosed during the physical examination when the symptoms are examined.

What Are the Available Treatment Options for Tongue-Tie?

There are cases where the child having tongue-tie does not have any noticeable symptoms like difficulty breastfeeding, swallowing, and speech impairment. So in those cases, treatment is not required.


In cases when the child is having symptoms, a surgical procedure called frenectomy is performed. Frenectomy is a simple surgical procedure that is carried out under local anesthesia in which the lingual frenulum is cut. This procedure is also known as frenulectomy, frenotomy, and tongue-tie division. Frenectomy is a painless procedure, but like any other surgical procedure, it carries certain risks like bleeding, scarring, infection, or injury to the salivary ducts present in the mouth.


Frenuloplasty is an extensive procedure that is carried out under general anesthesia. This surgical procedure is recommended when the lingual frenulum is too thick for a frenectomy.

What Are the Complications Associated With Tongue-Tie?

The long-term effects associated with tongue-tie are:

  • Malnutrition:

Poor breastfeeding leads to inadequate nutrition and results in malnourishment.

  • Impaired Speech:

Due to tongue-tie, the child may not be able to pronounce certain sounds, which can later affect their speech and overall school performance.

  • Poor Oral Hygiene:

Because of tongue-tie, it may be difficult to sweep away the food debris sticking on from the teeth contributing to tooth decay or plaque formation resulting in a condition known as gingivitis.


There is no particular way to prevent tongue-tie, but early diagnosis and treatment are key to a child's recovery. Most babies recover completely without any treatment. But in severe cases, when not treated, the child may not be able to breastfeed. Poor breastfeeding can lead to inadequate nutrition.

Frequently Asked Questions


Do Tongue-Ties Go Away on Their Own?

In most cases, tongue-ties usually go away after two or three years of life. However, in some severe cases, the individual might require surgical treatment where the frenum cut is made to better the condition.


Is Surgery Mandatory for a Tongue-Tie?

Surgical requirements depend upon the severity of the tongue-tie. However, most doctors opt for a surgical intervention where the frenum is cut and altered to manage the tongue-tie as it helps the infant latch to the mother's breast naturally while feeding.


Do Tongue Ties Cause Speech Impairments?

In certain severe tongue-tie cases, the person finds it challenging to make certain sounds that require the tip of the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth. For example, the affected person might find it hard to pronounce the words that contain letters such as t, d, n, s, z, and r.


How Do You Know If a Person Has a Tongue-Tie?

Some of the signs of tongue-tie are as follows,
- The person will not be able to protrude their tongue past the front teeth.
- The protruded tongue will have a notch or will form a heart shape.
- The person will have difficulty lifting the tongue to the roof of their mouth, or they will find it hard to move their tongue in a sideways motion.


What Happens if We Do Not Treat Tongue Ties?

Tongue ties, if not treated, can cause different complications depending upon the child's age and the severity of the tongue-tie. First, the bonding between the baby and the mother might be hindered as the baby finds it hard to feed. Later the child will have speech impairments.


Who Can Diagnose a Tongue-Tie?

A pediatrician or a primary care doctor can diagnose tongue ties in infants during regular checkups.


Do Tongue Ties Cause a High Palate?

Restricted tongue movements can cause specific palate abnormalities like high palate and bubble palate.


Do Tongue Ties Cause a Weak Chin?

A study conducted in 2014 shows that people with tongue ties are more prone to have a weak chin and class 2 malocclusion.


Can a Tongue-Tie Affect Sleep?

People with tongue ties have an underdeveloped palate, leading to smaller airways. This can cause upper airway collapse and can cause sleep apnea.


Can a Tongue-Tie Affect Face Shape?

People with untreated tongue ties can have restricted tongue movements which may alter the shape of the face.
Dr. Chithranjali Ravichandran
Dr. Chithranjali Ravichandran



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