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Tongue-tie: Chrissy Teigen's daughter had one — but what does it mean?

A doctor explains the signs and symptoms of the condition formally known as ankyloglossia.
/ Source: TODAY

When Chrissy Teigen’s 3-year-old daughter, Luna, was an infant, a doctor diagnosed her with tongue-tie.

Teigen was shocked. A few days earlier, she had brushed off an Instagram follower who suggested Luna had the condition.

I was like… ‘Get out of my photo. No, she doesn’t,’” the model-turned-cookbook author told TODAY Parents.

What is tongue-tie?

Tongue-tie, more formally known as ankyloglossia, is easy to miss. According to Dr. Adva Buzi, an attending physician in the Division of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, many adults are walking around with the congenital abnormality and have no idea.

Tongue-tie is characterized by an unusually short, thick or tight lingual frenulum — the band of tissue that connects the tongue to the base of the mouth — that can restrict tongue mobility.

“Many people will be asymptomatic,” Buzi told TODAY Parents. “But the most common symptom is feeding difficulty, most commonly when breastfeeding. Characteristically, ankyloglossia results in a shallow latch and poor seal around the nipple.”

But not all babies with tongue-tie struggle to nurse.

“Some infants with even the most significant of tethering have no issues with latching,” Buzi explained.

What are signs that a person has tongue-tie?

Though tongue-tie should be diagnosed by a medical professional, there are physical signs to look for including a tongue that appears heart-shaped when stuck out, Buzi noted.

“Otherwise, in order to identify ankyloglossia, the tongue must be elevated toward the roof of the mouth. This can be done by placing an index finger below either side of the tongue and lifting up," Buzi told TODAY Parents. “A lingual frenulum would then appear as a band at the center of the underside of the tongue. Some people compare its (webbed) appearance to the Eiffel Tower.”

How is tongue-tie treated?

The condition, which can also cause dental and speech issues, is treated with a frenectomy, a procedure in which a doctor or dentist cuts the lingual frenulum to release it using scissors or a laser. But it’s not always necessary.

“If the tongue-tie is not leading to feeding difficulty or a person’s symptoms are not felt to be related to the frenulum, no treatment is required,” Buzi said.

For Teigen’s daughter, a frenectomy was the way to go.

As she recently told People: “We got it fixed.”