March 15, 2018

From the Smarty Health Corner and CEENTA: The Truth About Tongue-Tie

By our Smarty friends at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.

Have you or someone you know ever been called “tongue-tied” after stumbling over your words? Sure, it’s a light tease, but did you know it’s also a real condition that can affect your baby? Happy family baby

Tongue-tie – or ankyloglossia – is a condition in which a band of tissue, known as the frenulum, is too long or too tight and ties the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. At birth this can cause difficulty latching on while breastfeeding, pain for the mother while feeding, and overall decreased feeding time. At older ages it can cause children to mispronounce words while saying certain sounds.

Tongue-tie can be present at birth. While some doctors are able to identify it right away during a newborn’s exam, it may be missed and be present for many years. You can you tell if your baby is tongue-tied if they have:

– Difficulty lifting their tongue or moving it from side to side
– Difficulty sticking their tongue out (while licking ice cream, for example)
– A tongue that looks notched or heart-shaped when it’s stuck out
– Trouble breastfeeding and pain while breastfeeding, especially when compared to older siblings
– Complaints of difficulty eating, speaking, or reaching their back teeth with their tongue
– Difficulty articulating and producing certain sounds

Although not always necessary, a simple surgical procedure can provide relief. And when we say “simple,” we mean it. An ear, nose, and throat specialist can “cut” the tongue tie, releasing the tongue. This procedure takes just a few minutes. In many cases, anesthesia isn’t needed because there are few nerve endings in that part of the tongue and the procedure is well tolerated. Some babies even sleep through the procedure. Once it’s done, you can start feeding your baby right away. It’s such a simple procedure, parents can even stay in the room with their baby.

“When we deem that a tongue-tie release is necessary, I let the parent decide if they want to be present for the procedure, as I find that parents are sometimes comforted being present for procedures when it is safe to do so,” CEENTA ENT doctor Nicholas Stowell, MD, said. “About half of the mothers and fathers actually want to hold their baby as we perform the procedure. That’s how simple it is.”

Nicholas Stowell, MD

Nicholas Stowell, MD

Some children who do not get the procedure as an infant will see the problem work itself out as they get older. However, in some cases treatment does end up being necessary. The same procedure can be done in older children and adults, although they may need anesthesia.

No parent wants their child to have problems eating or speaking. Fortunately, tongue-tie is a minor problem that does not need to cause you a great deal of worry.

Dr. Stowell sees patients in CEENTA’s Concord office. To make an appointment with him or any of CEENTA’s ENT doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also make an appointment online at

Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates

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