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About tongue-tie

Tongue-tie is when the piece of skin under a baby's tongue is attached to the tongue. In most babies, this piece of skin separates from the front end of the tongue before they're born.

A baby with tongue-tie might not be able to move her tongue freely.

Tongue-tie is a congenital condition. This means it's something a baby is born with. We don't know why tongue-tie happens in some babies, but it usually isn't a serious problem.

Tongue-tie can run in families and is more common in boys.

Signs of tongue-tie

Here are some signs that your baby or child has tongue-tie:

  • The tip of your baby's tongue looks heart-shaped when his tongue sticks out.
  • The tip of your baby's tongue can't reach the roof of her mouth or further than the edge of her lower lip.
  • Your baby's tongue can't move sideways.

If you're breastfeeding and your baby has tongue-tie, you might notice that:

  • your baby has trouble attaching or staying attached to your breast
  • your baby makes a clicking sound when feeding
  • your nipples look squashed after feeding and might be sore or damaged.

Does your child need to see a doctor about tongue-tie?

You should take your child to the GP if you notice any of the signs above or if you're concerned about tongue-tie. If you're having trouble with breastfeeding, it's a very good idea to talk with your child and family health nurse or a lactation consultant. These health professionals will check your baby for tongue-tie.

You might see a speech pathologist if you notice problems with your child's speech. Although it isn't clear whether tongue-tie can affect speech development, a speech pathologist might check for signs of tongue-tie.

Treatment for tongue-tie

Tongue-tie usually doesn't need treatment.

For many children, the piece of skin loosens itself as they get older.

But sometimes tongue-tie doesn't go away and might affect breastfeeding. In this situation, your child can have a procedure called a frenectomy.

A frenectomy involves cutting the fold of skin with scissors or a laser. For a newborn baby, this procedure is often done without anaesthetic. Your baby can usually feed immediately after the procedure.

If your baby is more than a few months old, doctors will usually use a general anaesthetic to do a frenectomy.

Your health professional can help you decide whether your baby needs a frenectomy and which approach is best for your child. Only an experienced health professional should do a frenectomy.