Treatment for tongue-tie is controversial. Some doctors and lactation consultants recommend correcting it right away — even before a newborn is discharged from the hospital. Others prefer to take a wait-and-see approach.
The lingual frenulum may loosen over time, resolving tongue-tie. In other cases, tongue-tie persists without causing problems. In some cases, surgical treatment may be required.
Surgical treatment of tongue-tie may be done for infants, children or adults if tongue-tie causes problems. Surgical procedures are frenotomy or frenuloplasty.
A simple surgical procedure called a frenotomy can be done with or without anesthesia in the hospital nursery or doctor's office.
The doctor examines the lingual frenulum and then uses sterile scissors to snip the frenulum free. The procedure is quick and discomfort is minimal since there are few nerve endings or blood vessels in the lingual frenulum.
If any bleeding occurs, it's likely to be only a drop or two of blood. After the procedure, a baby can breast-feed immediately.
Complications of frenotomy are rare — but could include bleeding or infection, or damage to the tongue or salivary glands. It's also possible for the frenulum to reattach to the base of the tongue.
A more extensive procedure known as a frenuloplasty might be recommended if additional repair is needed or the lingual frenulum is too thick for frenotomy.
Frenuloplasty is done under general anesthesia with surgical tools. After the frenulum is released, the wound is usually closed with sutures that absorb on their own as the tongue heals.
Possible complications of frenuloplasty are similar to frenotomy and rare — bleeding or infection, or damage to the tongue or salivary glands. Scarring is possible due to the more extensive nature of the procedure, as are reactions to anesthesia.
After frenuloplasty, tongue exercises might be recommended to enhance tongue movement and reduce the potential for scarring.
April 30, 2015
- Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia). American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/tongue-tie-ankyloglossia. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Tongue-tie. NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tongue-tie/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Brookes A, et al. Tongue tie: The evidence for frenotomy. Early Human Development. 2014;90:765.
- Isaacson GC. Ankyloglossia (tongue-tie) in infants and children. http:/www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Power RF, et al. Tongue-tie and frenotomy in infants with breastfeeding difficulties: Achieving a balance. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2014;0:1.
- Webb AN, et al. The effect of tongue-tie division on breastfeeding and speech articulation: A systematic review. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 2013;77:635.
- Cofer SA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 4, 2015.
- Beatty CW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 20, 2015.
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