Bayo Ajibola


“Ankyloglossia?” What a big and intimidating name for a kiddies’ problem.” I am sure many of us will say that. Well, let’snot focus on the sound or length of the word, but rather on what the term is all about; most medical terms are intimidating anyway.

Ankyloglossia is a medical term for a problem known as “tongue-tie”.It is a condition where the tongueis joined to the bottom of the mouth by a thick short tissue called the lingual frenulum. This attachment restricts free movement of the tongue.As we know, the tongue is a very important organ of the body. It is responsible for speech and it helps us in our feeding process, from infancy to old age. Where this organ is being hampered, there is bound to be serious problems.


The main symptom of ankyloglossia (tongue-tie)in infants is the difficulty in breastfeeding.  The baby may not be able to latch onto the mother’s nipple properly.  Such baby may, within a short period, become undernourished and this may lead toweight loss or poor weight gain. In the same vein, the breast feeding mother may have engorged breasts and blocked ducts characterised by severe breast pain and even fever. The whole issue of breastfeeding may, indeed, be frustrating for both mother and baby.

In older babies or children, the symptoms may include: difficulty in moving the tongue from side to side or lifting the tongue to the roof of the mouth or to the upper teeth;  difficulty in sticking out the tongue past the upper front teeth; a tongue that looks notched at the tip (in a V-shape);  inability to make certain sounds like “d,”  “t,”  “s,”  “z,” “th,”  “l”and “r.”  It may also be challenging for children with ankyloglossia to lick an ice-cream cone or lollipop.


Ankyloglossiais prevalent in boys than girls and its presence is apparent at birth. If this were the case, isn’t it logical, wise and proper to get it treated at birth (as soon as the baby is born)? The fact here is that the conditionis not easily detected at birth in all cases. Sometimes, it can only be detected later when certain circumstances show up, like feeding problems or speech problems.

Ankyloglossiacan only be treated by surgery. Nevertheless, surgery is not required in allcases.  Some cases may resolve naturally over time. Some even persists without causing any feeding problems. However, where surgery is required, a frenulectomy can be done. This involves slitting the tissue under the tongue, thereby freeing the tongue.It can be done with or without anaesthesia. If performed immediately after birth, the process is easier and needs no anaesthesia.  The baby may even resume feeding immediately.  Conversely, if performed in older babies or children, it requires a general anaesthesia. Frenulectomy is a minor surgery that only takes a few minutes to perform.  When done, feeding is established and speech is regained.

Bayo Ajibola

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