Over the last decade or so, there has been a surge in the number of babies diagnosed with and needing corrective surgery for tongue-ties.
Fortunately, there is a simple and quick procedure to combat tongue-ties and, hopefully, resolve any feeding issues that they may cause.
However, while the procedure itself is simple, there is significant work that must be done in the weeks following to ensure that the tongue-tie does not reattach and symptoms do not return.
How do tongue ties reattach? Reattachment occurs when the frenulum tissue (the piece that connects the tongue to the base of the jaw) is snipped but ends up healing back together again. Prescribed stretches and exercises are crucial to proper healing and the prevention of reattachment.
If your little one just recently had a tongue-tie release or is preparing for one, it is helpful to be mindful of the possibility of reattachment and make sure you are informed about what you need to do to prevent it.
Being prepared ahead of time will make the process a whole lot smoother for you and your baby. Let’s talk a little bit more about why reattachment occurs and exactly what you need to do to prevent it.
Tongue-Tie Reattachment: Causes & Prevention
While tongue-tie reattachment does happen, it can easily be prevented if you are aware of the cause and what steps to take post-release to maximize mobility and ensure proper healing.
What Causes Tongue Ties To Reattach?
When a full tongue-tie release is performed correctly, your baby will have a diamond-shaped wound — half on the bottom of her tongue and the other half on the bottom of her mouth.
You will see it clearly when you lift her tongue. Ensuring that this wound heals properly is crucial to yielding the most effective results and preventing reattachment.
So, what is the proper way for the wound to heal? Basically, the tissue needs to regrow on the tongue and the bottom of the mouth separately instead of healing back on itself.
Think of it like this: you have an open book with glue on both pages. You will want the glue to dry with the book open. Otherwise, the pages would stick together as they dry.
The post-release wound is similar. You want the tongue to heal separately from the mouth so that they do not heal back together.
Now, it is unrealistic to have your baby keep her tongue raised from the bottom of her mouth at all times. That is where the stretches and exercises come into play. Don’t worry — we will cover those too!
How Quickly Can a Tongue Tie Grow Back?
A tongue-tie does not “grow back” after it is released and healed properly. A tongue-tie can reattach, but this is simply a result of the wound not healing properly, and it is usually noticeable within the first 3 weeks following the release.
What Percentage of Tongue Ties Reattach?
There is limited research, but only 4% of released tongue-ties result in a reattachment that is severe enough to cause issues with feeding, speech, and tongue mobility.
Can Tongue Tie Reattach Months Later?
Fortunately, no! Once your little one has healed, they are good to go! Reattachment will only occur during the healing process, which only takes a few weeks after the procedure.
How Long Does Tongue-Tie Revision Take To Heal?
The healing process of the mouth is fascinating. Mouth wounds tend to heal rather quickly compared to other wounds. Following a tongue-tie release, the wound will typically heal in about two to three weeks.
You should continue to do the stretches and exercises for about three more weeks even after the wound has healed in order to increase tongue strength and mobility.
Tongue-Tie Reattachment Symptoms
If a tongue-tie has reattached, you will know right away because you and your baby will experience the same feeding complications as you did with the initial tongue tie. In addition, you will probably be able to see that the tongue-tie has reattached.
If your baby had a tongue-tie release and feeding issues still haven’t improved, work with a lactation consultant before assuming that the tongue-tie has reattached.
Sometimes there are other underlying issues that may be causing your baby to struggle to feed properly and can yield the same complications as reattachment.
What To Expect After Tongue-Tie Release
Fortunately for your little one, the frenotomy procedure is not very traumatic. Their reactions will be similar to those following a vaccination.
They may be irritable, but usually breastfeeding or being fed in the arms of a parent is enough to soothe them after the procedure.
You will see a diamond-shaped wound on the bottom of the tongue and mouth. As it heals, the wound will turn white and yellow and may resemble pus. This is a normal part of the healing process.
It is also normal to experience a little bit of bleeding following the procedure or when doing the exercises.
Continue to feed your baby as normal, and the bleeding will usually stop quickly. If there is heavy bleeding that does not stop, seek medical attention.
What To Do if Tongue Tie Reattaches
Reattachment is very rare. If it does happen, you should return to the provider that performed the procedure. They will examine the reattachment and determine what needs to be done.
Unfortunately, it is not guaranteed that a second release will yield different results as there is a 50% chance of reattachment after it has already happened once.
Most providers will not do another release except for extreme cases. They will likely refer you to therapists or prescribe treatment without doing another release.
How To Prevent Tongue-Tie Reattachment
Preventing tongue-tie reattachment really comes down to doing proper aftercare following the procedure.
There is a bit of controversy that surrounds this as it can be stressful for both you and baby; however, it really is the best way to encourage proper healing.
Your provider will likely give you stretches and exercises to do with your baby that will increase the flexibility of the tongue and prevent the wound from healing together.
The point of these exercises is to guide the tissue during the healing process in a way that maximizes vertical movement. They are done five times a day for six weeks following the release.
Frenotomy vs. Frenectomy
The frenulum is the tissue that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth and the lips to the inside of the mouth. Everyone has one, but sometimes they restrict mobility and need to be released.
A frenectomy is the complete removal of the frenulum, including its attachment to the underlying bone. A frenotomy is much more common. With a frenotomy, the frenulum is snipped and slightly relocated.
Infant Tongue-Tie Reattachment
While tongue-ties can be a problem for adults, they are more likely to cause issues for infants. They can cause significant problems with breastfeeding, eating, drinking, or speech production later if left untreated.
Once infants have their tongue-tie released, parents may wonder about reattachment since babies do not know how to do the aftercare exercises on their own.
Parents must try to be as diligent as possible about doing the stretches and exercises to prevent reattachment.
It is definitely easier said than done, but rest assured that every little bit of effort makes a difference and the likelihood of reattachment is minimal if the advised aftercare is performed.
Disadvantages of Clipping Tongue Tie
You may be on the fence about having your little one’s tongue-tie released. It is, after all, surgery on your precious little one. You may wonder if it is necessary.
There are definitely many advantages of having the tongue-tie released, but there are some disadvantages to consider.
- It may be expensive.
- It may not immediately resolve breastfeeding or bottle-feeding challenges.
- There is the possibility of complications including breast refusal or oral aversion after surgery.
- Requires aftercare that could be stressful for you and your baby.
A tongue-tie release is not always necessary. Always consult with your provider and lactation consultants to rule out the possibility of something else causing feeding challenges before deciding to do a release.
Exercises After Tongue-Tie Release
We’ve talked about the importance of aftercare and proper healing. The mouth heals so quickly that the wound may prematurely reattach and cause feeding complications to return or a limitation of mobility.
That is why the stretches and exercises are so important and must be done frequently, preferably every four hours, about six times a day, for the first three weeks following surgery.
These stretches are not meant to be forceful or prolonged, but quick and precise movements. It is typically easier to do the stretches with your baby on your lap.
Is Tongue Tie Genetic?
Tongue-ties are a congenital defect, meaning babies are born with it, and it may be caused by genetics. Studies have shown that there is a genetic component to tongue-ties.
When Does Your Tongue Stop Growing?
Have you ever thought about your tongue growing? Like the ears and nose, your tongue continues to grow throughout your life but at different rates. Weird, huh?
There are so many things about having a baby that are, ultimately, beyond our control. Tongue-ties are certainly one of those things.
Rest assured that after a tongue-tie release, it is unlikely that it will reattach so long as you are diligent at monitoring the wound, striving to do the prescribed stretches, and utilizing the professional resources around you to assist in the healing process.
Charlynn is an educator and mom to fraternal boy/girl twins. She loves learning through the experiences she has with her littles and using her knowledge to help other moms as they embark on the journey of motherhood.