Dealing with ‘akalimba’
Published On May 17, 2022 » 567 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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By Dr TOBIAS NJOBVU –
Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a condition present at or noticed after birth that restricts the tongue’s range of motion.
It maybe known as akalimba in one of the local languages.
With tongue-tie, there is an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue (lingual frenulum) tethers at the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth, so it may interfere with breastfeeding.
Someone who has tongue-tie might have difficulty sticking out his or her tongue.
That could also affect the way a child eats, speaks and swallows.
Sometimes, tongue-tie may not cause problems at all.
Some cases may require a simple surgical procedure for correction.
Signs and symptoms of tongue-tie include: difficulty in lifting the tongue to the upper teeth or moving the tongue from side to side; trouble sticking out the tongue past the lower front teeth; and, a tongue that appears notched or heart shaped when stuck out.
This usually causes anxiety, especially to first time parents when the child reaches six months of age and it is unable to produce some talking sounds.
It also causes difficulties in breastfeeding or reaching the back teeth.
Typically, the lingual frenulum separates before birth, allowing the tongue free range of motion. With tongue-tie, the lingual frenulum remains attached to the bottom of the tongue.
Why this happens is largely unknown or could be genetic as it sometimes runs in families.
Tongue-tie has been found to be more common in boys than girls.
Long term complications of tongue-tie can include: a baby having poor oral development, as well as the way he or she eats, speaks and swallows.
Breastfeeding requires a baby to keep his or her tongue over the lower gum while sucking.
If unable to move the tongue or keep it in the right position, the baby might chew instead of suck on the nipple.
This can cause significant nipple pain and interfere with a baby’s ability to get breast milk. Ultimately, poor breastfeeding can lead to inadequate nutrition and failure to thrive.
Tongue-tie can interfere with the ability to make certain sounds — such as “t,” “d,” “z,” “s,” “th,” “r” and “l.”
In older children or adult, tongue-tie can make it difficult to sweep food debris from the teeth. This can contribute to tooth decay and inflammation of the gums (gingivitis).
Tongue-tie can also lead to the formation of a gap or space between the two bottom front teeth.
Tongue-tie can interfere with activities such as licking an ice cream cone, licking the lips and kissing.
What tongue-tie may not be is when the child, as old as two years, is unable to speak or talk even a single word.
This may cause great anxiety to parents especially if the child is thriving well.
There are a number of causes if the child fails to talk as expected at a certain age during the developmental stages.
These could be: severe illness to the mother during pregnancy or the child after birth; trauma to the brain of the child; drugs taken during pregnancy or after birth by the child; and lagging in developmental milestone.
When the child is suspected to have a tongue-tie, visit the dentist, especially by the age of six months.
Grandparents play an important role in a baby’s well being.
That effort should certainly be appreciated and guided by trained health personnel.
The author is a medical doctor at Kabwe Central Hospital.

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