By Sammi Cohen
Ankyloglossia is a condition present at birth that can lead to serious problems for both a child and mother. Ankyloglossia is a scary medical term that not too many people are familiar with. This condition is more commonly known, simply, as tongue-tie, which affects between 4% and 11% of newborn babies.
When tongue-tie is present, an unusually short, thick, or tight band of lingual frenulum (tissue) tethers the bottom of the child’s tongue tip to the floor of his or her mouth. Tongue-tie complications can lead to speech difficulties, challenges with other oral activities, poor oral hygiene later on in life, and all kinds of breast-feeding problems for the mother. Children with poor oral health are already three times more likely to miss school later on as a result of dental pain, and tongue-tie issues can lead to even more problems down the line.
Children should begin regular dental visits at age one. Baby teeth begin to grow around six months and since breast-feeding requires a baby to keep his or her tongue over the lower gum, the baby might chew — instead of suckle — on the nipple, leading to pain for the mother and inadequate nutrition for the baby.
In late March, a Rochester doctor was featured in PEOPLE, covering ankyloglossia, the increased amount of cases, and how it can impact breast-feeding.
“We need to have careful strategies to properly assess, manage, and discuss with parents so they can make the best decisions,” said Dr. Casey Rosen-Carole, Medical Director of Lactation Services and Programs and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and OBGYN at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “My sense is that the increased diagnosis and management of tongue-tie in the past decade is partially due to increased advocacy, increased breast-feeding rates, less willingness to ‘just bottle feed instead’ and finally, groups of physicians who will work with families and lactation consultants to treat ankyloglossia.”
Here are some common signs and symptoms of tongue-tie:
- A tongue that appears notched or heart shaped when it sticks out.
- Difficulty moving the tongue from side to side or reaching the upper teeth.
- Trouble sticking the tongue out past the lower front teeth.
Additionally, since vaccines prevent more than 2.5 million unnecessary deaths every year, it’s important to stay in contact with medical professionals. You should visit a doctor and/or dentist if any of the following are occurring:
- You’re struggling with your own tongue-tie issues.
- Your baby isn’t able to properly breast feed.
- A speech-language pathologist recommends getting your baby checked.
- Your child (if older) complains of tongue-related issues interfering with eating, speaking, or reaching his or her back teeth.
Though only 3% of patients who visit an urgent care center need to be diverted to an emergency department, it’s recommended to visit ankyloglossia and breast-feeding medical professionals if your baby is showing signs of tongue-tie or they aren’t able to properly feed.
Hoping to provide better care to infants and breast-feeding mothers alike, UR Medicine launched Rochester’s first physician-led outpatient practice dedicated to lactation medicine and breast-feeding. Dr. Rosen-Carole’s practice will provide women with medical care and support for breast-feeding problems before conception, throughout pregnancy, and after childbirth.
“We know the benefits of exclusive breast-feeding for the optimal health and well-being of babies, mothers, and communities,” Dr. Rosen-Carole said. “But each woman has her own unique goals and challenges for breast-feeding her child. My role is to provide the appropriate medical services and support to help her reach those goals.”