How to spot symptoms of tongue-tie and avoid misdiagnosis

It's a nightmare for any new parents: their newborn doesn't eat or sleep and doctors aren’t sure why.

Reflux is a common diagnosis, but when the correct diagnosis is finally made, parents learn the issue wasn't with their child's stomach at all. 

There’s never been anything wrong with baby Holden’s appetite but satisfying it was a frightening struggle.  

“He needed to eat. He wanted to eat, and it was a struggle for me to keep him on me because he would just go ‘pwapwapwa’,” said Jray Lieberman, Holden’s mother.

That’s because extra tissue tied to the bottom of his tongue was pulling his mouth off his mother. It’s called tongue-tie. 

“I was a nervous wreck honestly,” Lieberman said.

Dr. Monica Kharbanda, with BayCare Pediatrician, said problems breastfeeding are one of the best early warning signs of tongue-tie. 

“Studies have shown that if you don’t fix it in some kids, when they get older, they could have issues with taking food,” Kharbanda said.

And also with oral hygiene and speech. Ignoring it can be a real problem later.

“We’ll end up having to get the tissue because we’re trying to move the teeth orthodontically or we’re trying to restore teeth and there’s that big hunk of tissue in between the teeth. It really is a big issue that most parents have no idea about," said Dr. Larry Lieberman, a dentist at Dental Arts of Palm Harbor.

To fix it, a surgery called a frenectomy can cut and remove the tissue. 

Holden's grandfather, Larry Lieberman, happens to be a dentist and a laser he uses in his practice removed his grandson’s extra tissue. 

“I would not clip every tongue-tie that I see. It depends on the positioning of it. How symptomatic the child is,” Kharbanda said.

But it worked for Holden. 

“Having this addressed correctly from the beginning is just really important. It will save a lot of heartache,” Jray Lieberman said.

No one is sure why, but tongue-tie is more common in boys than girls.