We recently had a family rush straight from the hospital to our pediatric dental practice in Mount Pleasant. Their newborn was “tongue-tied”, and the surgical staff at the hospital was recommending a frenectomy, a procedure that releases or removes the offending frenulum, and they wanted to use a scalpel to do the job.
Our team here at our pediatric dental practice uses the best and most technologically advanced methods available, and we have long since dropped the scalpel in favor of the laser to perform frenectomies.
What are frenula?
Some parts of the body like to move around, so we grow little folds of tissue that act as retaining cords, securing or restricting the motion a bit and providing a base of stability. These are called frenula, and we have them in our mouth, in the digestive tract, and even in the brain.
In this instance, we are concerned with the frenula in the mouth. There is one that secures the tongue to the floor of the mouth and another that secures the lips to the gums. Children can be born with conditions that cause the attachment point for these frenula to be a little off.
When the frenulum under the tongue is abnormally short or attached too close to the tip of their tongue, greatly restricting movement, it’s a condition known as ankyloglossia, commonly known as being “tongue-tied”.
In an infant, this can make it difficult for baby to latch adequately and breastfeed. As they grow, the impairment can prevent them from opening their mouth wide, affect their eating habits, and impede speech development. There can also be pain, and simple things like licking an ice cream cone can be challenging, if not impossible.
A lip-tie is similar to a tongue-tie, except that it’s the upper lip we’re dealing with. The labial frenulum, which connects the upper lip to the gums, sometimes attaches too low, as far down south as right in between the upper two front teeth.
A lip-tie can cause excessive spacing between the two front teeth. A lip-tie can make it challenging to properly brush and floss, and it makes it easy to hurt the area. For infants, a lip-tie makes it very hard to breastfeed because they cannot move their upper lip upward enough to latch and create a good seal.
Problems with baby breastfeeding
Many moms and dads don’t realize that a tongue or lip tie is the issue — not all cases are clearly visible. Often, these issues are discovered when mothers and their newborns are struggling with breastfeeding and seek assistance.
Both the mother and the baby can struggle tremendously with breastfeeding when these issues (and combinations of them) are present. The infant may need to relatch frequently, be in pain when they attempt to eat, and may even be losing weight because they aren’t eating enough. Feeding frequency usually increases, stressing both the mother and the infant, because baby becomes hungry more quickly.
There’s no reason to blame yourself when this happens. Many mothers simply suffer through it or switch to a bottle that their baby prefers, not realizing it might be a physiological problem with the structure of their infant’s mouth.
Fortunately, the procedure to correct these issues is relatively simple.
The team has opted to treat our most vulnerable patients with the latest and greatest methods available. Our practice uses a soft-tissue laser that uses light and air to remove tissue, rather than cutting it out with a scalpel. There is so little discomfort involved with this technique that some babies fall asleep during the procedure, and no anesthesia is required.
Our method is sterile and will cause no bleeding, so risks of infection are far lower than traditional surgery. A laser frenectomy takes only a couple minutes, and your little patients will be right as rain in no time.
If you have an infant that is struggling to eat properly, they may be tongue-tied. Dr. Randy and his team are the only pediatric dental practice in Mount Pleasant that uses laser frenectomies to treat ankyloglossia. Schedule a consultation with our team and we’ll see if this is the right choice for you and your infant.
Facebook review from Stephanie H. 01/17/2018:
“We had our 5 day old evaluated for a lip tie and tongue tie based on symptoms during nursing and knowledge from similar experience with our first daughter.
From my first phone call to make the appointment until the time we walked out the door, it was a wonderful experience. Staff was friendly and professional. Dr. Randy was knowledgeable and very kind.
Due to flexibility in their schedule we were given the opportunity to have the revision done the same day as the consultation once we were in the office! It was a wonderful experience.“