Being tongue-tied is not just those times when you are not sure of what to say. It is also an actual physical problem in which the strong piece of connective tissue under the tongue, called the short frenulum, is too tight or reaches too far forward on the tongue. While it is not rare to have this issue, most of the time it slowly tears or stretches as an infant grows. However, sometimes it is so strong it inhibits the child from being able to eat, especially breastfed infants, so it is snipped in a medical procedure.
Even if the problem seems small or manageable right now, it's best to take care of it now and talk with your child's doctor. Here are a few issues that you can avoid with early treatment.
When the tongue is even slightly held back, it can be difficult to form certain sounds needed for speaking clearly. If the child begins speaking and then it is decided a frenectomy is necessary to correct the problem, habits may have been formed that will be hard to break. The child may be teased at school, making them feel more self-conscious. Since the procedure is simple, and much less traumatic the younger the child is, have it done as soon as it is noticed.
As the child grows and starts to eat solid foods tongue mobility is important. When foods cannot be moved around in the mouth they may not be ground enough for easy swallowing. A child who is tongue-tied is more likely to choke on their food. In addition, any food that does make it to the stomach will sit there longer in order to be properly digested. This can cause bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.
The tongue is also used to sweep food and food particles from the back of the teeth. When this cannot be done adequately cavities will develop. As the bacteria grows and gets into the gums, it can affect the permanent teeth before they even erupt.
If you notice that your baby is having a hard time sucking, especially if he or she will not breastfeed but can suck from a bottle, ask your pediatrician to check the frenulum. If your toddler seems to choke or drool a lot, have their tongue checked, too. Do not just assume that the problem will correct itself with time and use. It is much better to have a frenectomy than to wait until other problems arise because of a short or tight frenulum.