A “tongue tie,” (or in medical jargon, ankyloglossia) is a common condition affecting newborns. In this condition, the lingual frenulum (that band of tissue that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth) is too restrictive, making it difficult for your infant to move their tongue. Importantly, this can potentially present a problem when breastfeeding. So whether you’ve gotten a corrective surgery for your tongue-tied baby, or the tongue tie has resolved on its own, you may worry, can a tongue tie come back?
First, it's helpful to understand what causes tongue ties in the first place. “Tongue ties or lingual frenum anterior attachment occur during growth and development,” Dr. Kevin Donly, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), tells Romper via email. Some tongue ties resolve naturally, while others may be treated with surgeries such as a frenotomy or a frenuloplasty, where that band of tissue connecting the tongue to the lower part of the mouth is cut, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
The question of whether to surgically treat tongue tie, or to take a "wait and see" approach is typically up to the discretion of your physician and depends on what symptoms (if any) your child is experiencing. As a study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood explained, "50 percent of breastfeeding babies with ankyloglossia will not encounter any problems." The "wait and see" approach is actually often perfectly sufficient, as the membrane in question does get thinner and more flexible over time.
Though tongue ties don’t always cause problems, “They can be surgically treated when a child has difficulty eating or breastfeeding due to the tongue tie (lingual frenum anterior attachment),” Dr. Kevin Donly says. Thankfully, the study mentioned above found that complications of the surgery are rare, and major complications unreported: "Frenotomy appears to improve breastfeeding in infants with tongue tie."
Tongue tie is typically diagnosed either by visually inspecting the tongue, or if breastfeeding problems arise, and affects about 5 percent of newborns. Symptoms include “clicking” sounds while feeding, trouble latching on or staying latched to the breast while feeding, slower weight gain than expected, and unusual hunger.
After a tongue tie has gone away, either on its own or through a medical procedure, you probably don’t need to worry about it “growing back.” “Once a tongue tie (lingual frenum anterior attachment) is corrected, it remains in that state,” Dr. Kevin Donly says. If an older child has a tongue tie, it’s likely that it was not noticed or did not need treatment when the child was an infant. Older children with tongue tie may experience trouble with speech, eating, and being able to engage in proper oral hygiene. (It's worth noting, however, that occasionally tongue ties can reappear, so to speak: "Tongue ties don’t 'grow back,' but they may reattach," Colorado Tongue Tie explained on its website. So definitely check with your pediatrician if your baby undergoes a procedure and still suffers from symptoms, but that probably won't happen.