(TRENTON) – The full Assembly approved on Monday legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jason O’Donnell and Craig J. Coughlin to mandatory screening for ankyloglossia or “anchored tongue” in infants.
Sponsors note in the legislation that “tongue-tie” is seen at birth and causes a wide range of difficulties that affect the sufferer in different ways. The consequences of untreated tongue tie are wide ranging and can affect the structure and appearance of the face and teeth, as well as oral function. Breastfeeding, eating, digestion, teeth, speech, kissing, and social skills can be adversely affected. Some consequences, such as breastfeeding difficulties, can be experienced early, but others, such as speaking and kissing, only become apparent in later life.
“Early diagnosis is a parent’s best defense in treating health conditions quickly and successfully,” said O’Donnell (D-Hudson). “Tongue-tie testing is a critical screening we must require due to its potential effect on a child’s speech and eating ability. Mandating testing is an important step in providing the best care for newborns. Simply, newborn screenings save lives.”
The bill (A-3390) states that the impact of a significant tongue tie on the ability of a baby to be breastfed is very often severe. As a consequence, many mothers who plan to breastfeed their babies are compelled to wean them to the bottle much earlier than expected.
“Screening tests are essential to ensuring a healthy baby,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Tongue-tie is more common than we think and often overlooked. This legislation would make an important addition to newborn screening requirements and enable parents to properly care for their babies if the condition is found.”
Currently, there are several options available when a tongue tie has been assessed and found to be restricting movement, that is, when the frenum (the string that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is recognized to be abnormal. In this situation, surgical correction would be required by an appropriate professional, which can be performed as early as seven days after an infant’s birth.
If enacted, this legislation would make New Jersey the first state to require tongue-tie screenings for newborns.
The bill would take effect on the first day of the fourth month after the date of enactment, but authorizes the Commissioner of Health to take prior administrative action as necessary for its implementation.
The bill passed the Assembly 66-3-9. It has been approved by both houses. Senate passed the measure in June.