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What is tongue-tie?

The length of the band of tissue under the tongue varies greatly among individuals. At birth, the tongue is normally short and the band is tight. The tongue grows and the band stretches with use. A child older than 1 year has an abnormally tight tongue (or tongue-tie) if:

  • The tip of the tongue can't be protruded past the teeth or gumline.
  • The end of the tongue becomes notched when it is protruded.

Tongue-tie is a very rare condition. If your child does not have either of the above problems, his or her tongue is normal.

How is it treated?

A tongue with less movement than normal does not cause delay or difficulty with speech. Occasionally it can cause sore nipples and painful breast-feeding because the shortened tongue cannot milk the areola. Under these conditions clipping the band under the tongue (frenulum release) can be very helpful. Otherwise, clipping is rarely done anymore because it is usually unnecessary. Clipping also carries a small risk of bleeding, infection, and tight scar tissue. It is rarely done before 1 year of age.

Call your health care provider if breast-feeding is painful.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-05-02
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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