Frenectomy: An Easy Solution for Tongue-Tied Babies
We might lightheartedly describe feeling speechless from embarrassment or surprise as being “tongue-tied”, but for about 5% of infants and their parents, being tongue- or lip-tied is actually a significant congenital medical condition. Tongue and lip ties can negatively impact many facets of a baby’s growth and development, from weight gain to eventually learning how to speak.
The good news is a tongue or lip tie is often easily remedied right in the comfort of your child’s pediatric dentist’s office. This procedure is called a frenectomy, a simple treatment option that only takes a few moments to complete but will help your baby’s feeding and development abilities now and in the future.
What is a tongue or lip tie?
Where the tongue connects to the mouth and where the lips connect to the gums is a small triangular-shaped piece of tissue called the frenum. If you take a look in the mirror and lift up your tongue or upper lip, you’ll be able to see the frenum easily.
A tongue or lip tie occurs when the frenum in these areas is too short, thick, or otherwise abnormally shaped. It impedes proper tongue and lip movement in infants, especially when breastfeeding or feeding from a bottle.
Common symptoms of tongue and lip ties in infants include:
- Difficulty in latching and unlatching while breastfeeding
- An audible clicking sound when feeding
- Difficult breathing while feeding
- Lip appearing pale after feeding
Tongue and lip ties are equally frustrating for the baby and the mother. Breastfeeding moms may feel frustrated and overwhelmed because their baby doesn’t seem to be able to latch properly or they spend an excessive amount of time feeding without much progress. Nipple pain is also a common symptom that a mother of a tongue- or lip-tied baby can experience.
How does a frenectomy help?
A frenectomy involves the revision of any frenum tissue, usually by a small surgical incision through the tissue in order to release the tension it’s causing. In the case of a tongue tie, this procedure is called a lingual frenectomy, and for a lip tie, it’s called a maxillary frenectomy.
While a frenectomy will help your infant have normal mobility of their tongue and lip movement, they may still need some extra help from a pediatrician or lactation consultant to help them learn how to now use their mouth properly for feeding.
Is a frenectomy really necessary?
A tongue or lip tie may not immediately seem like a serious health complication, especially if your baby is still able to feed and doesn’t seem uncomfortable. However, in most cases a frenectomy is still considered a necessary procedure.
Ensuring that your child is able to eat properly is crucial for their mental and physical development. It’s possible that even if your baby is able to latch decently, in the future they can still experience trouble with chewing their food thoroughly. Additionally, tongue and lip movement are both vital components of speech. Rather than facing the possibility of needing a future frenectomy as a school-aged child, it’s less complicated to follow through with a frenectomy recommendation during infancy.
If you are conflicted about whether or not your infant needs a frenectomy, don’t hesitate to bring up these concerns to our pediatric dentists. We are here to help parents make informed decisions in a zero-pressure environment.
What can I expect during my baby’s frenectomy?
A lingual or maxillary frenectomy is a surprisingly simple procedure in the majority of cases. The frenum tissue in both areas is quite thin which allows an experienced dentist to perform the frenectomy relatively quickly when the baby is calm and cooperative.
We always work at your child’s pace to ensure every visit to our office is something positive for them. Our team will gladly spend the extra time helping your baby relax before the treatment to help minimize stress for everyone.
The team at Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry will help your baby feel as calm as possible during every step of the treatment process. We provide anesthetic to ensure your child doesn’t feel any pain or discomfort and we also use laser oral surgery for maximum comfort and quicker healing.
Our specialized dental laser not only completes the frenectomy in less time and with more precision than other methods, but it also reduces bleeding and swelling to help your baby recover in record time.
After the frenectomy is finished, your child’s pediatric dentist will go over some aftercare instructions to follow. Some mild discomfort and fussiness is normal following the procedure. You might also notice that your baby may struggle a bit when trying to feed. This is also normal as your baby will need to get used to their new range of tongue or lip mobility.
If your baby’s dentist recommended special oral exercises and/or following up with a lactation consultant, be sure to follow these guidelines to ensure proper healing and future oral function.
Gentle, Effective Oral Frenectomies at Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry
Many tongue and lip ties are easily recognizable by simply looking under your child’s tongue or lip, but this can be tricky with a squirmy baby. If you suspect your infant might have a tongue or lip tie, it’s highly recommended to have this condition evaluated by their pediatric dentist.
You schedule your baby’s initial consultation today by calling our Salem, OR office or requesting a visit online.