Increase Breastfeeding Rates with Laser Dentistry Frenectomies

Though breastfeeding provides a wealth of benefits for both mother and baby, an overwhelming 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they would hope. While factors like certain sociocultural norms or a lack of maternal support at work or home must also be considered, many mothers prematurely discontinue breastfeeding due to the latch issues that accompany infant lip or tongue tie. Along with causing pain and distress in nursing moms, lip and tongue ties can impede healthy infant development and weight gain.

Potential Signs of Latch Problems from a Lip or Tongue Tie

For Infants

As they’re unsuccessfully laboring to get the vital nutrition they need, babies experiencing latch difficulties from a lip or tongue tie often display signs of duress and won’t achieve normal growth and development standards.

  • Shallow latch or frequent unlatching
  • Milk leaking from mouth due to poor seal
  • Long feedings that don’t seem to soothe or satisfy
  • Clicking sounds or breathing difficulties while suckling
  • Chomps or bites while nursing
  • White lip after unlatching
  • Slow or poor weight gain
  • Reflux from swallowing excessive air
  • Colic

For Nursing Mothers

  • Discomfort or pain while breastfeeding
  • Low breast milk supply
  • Sore, cracked, or blistered nipples or areolae
  • Nipples that appear squashed or oddly shaped right after nursing
  • Sleep deprivation due to frequent feedings

Having an infant with a poor latch can be very distressing for nursing moms who may feel inadequate or personally at fault for breastfeeding difficulties. Along with compassionately acknowledging their feelings and praising their efforts, you can help them understand how lip and tongue ties may be impacting their infant and how they can improve the breastfeeding experience and outcomes with a lip or tongue tie revision (frenectomy).

What are infant lip and tongue ties?

A frenulum is a cord-like membrane that stabilizes the upper lip, lower lip, and tongue. The frenula most likely to cause breastfeeding difficulties are the maxillary labial frenulum and the lingual frenulum, which stabilize the upper lip and tongue, respectively. Tongue tie (ankyloglossia) often runs in families and is thought to be more common in boys than girls.

Frenula typically thin and recede before birth, though if this does not occur, abnormalities can cause restricted tongue or lip movement. A short, tight, or enlarged frenulum can cause a shallow latch, a poor seal of the infant’s mouth around the breast, or improper tongue movement or positioning during feeding. The latter is what typically causes nipple irritation and pain.

Lip and Tongue Tie Revision with Laser Dentistry

Conventional lip and tongue tie revisions cauterize or snip an abnormal frenulum using a scalpel, at times requiring sutures to complete the procedure. Though a conventional frenectomy is performed under a local anesthetic and is typically completed in no more than 10 to 15 minutes, the experience is often distressing for both mother and baby.

Using a specialized soft tissue laser, Dr. Cooper and Dr. Day of Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry in Salem can provide a fast, predictable, and noninvasive lip or tongue tie revision without any cutting or stitches. A lip or tongue tie can often be ablated within less than 60 seconds, with the whole procedure generally lasting no more than five minutes. When compared with a conventional frenectomy, a lip or tongue tie revision with a soft tissue laser creates minimal tissue damage and contributes to instant hemostasis (cessation of bleeding), reduced postoperative pain, a lower risk of scarring, and less wound contraction.

Though they may display some signs of mild discomfort or minimal swelling in the first 24 hours or so, infants are typically able to breastfeed immediately after the surgery. Along with encouraging the infant to start adapting to improved lip or tongue mobility, breast milk can promote faster healing of the surgical site, while nursing can provide the infant with a sense of comfort and security. Dr. Cooper and Dr. Day will provide mothers with thorough post-operative instructions, which include gentle exercising to gently stretch the infant’s tongue or lips to prevent reattachment and encourage optimal healing. Exercises are typically performed three times daily for four weeks. As needed, a lactation specialist can offer additional support to foster greater success in the nursing partnership.

Risks of Laser Lip & Tongue Tie Revision

As with any surgical procedure, a lip or tongue tie revision carries the potential for undesirable side effects or risks, including post-operative pain or bleeding and weight loss while the baby adapts to a new way of feeding. Rarely, a tongue tie revision could result in breathing problems.

To prevent potential adverse outcomes, Dr. Cooper and Dr. Day will partner with you to fully evaluate an infant’s oral anatomy and other factors that may be impacting breastfeeding before determining whether or not a lip or tongue may be recommended. Monitoring breastfeeding progress for a period of time may first be indicated, as the symptoms may be transitory and eventually self-corrective.

Benefits of Laser Lip & Tongue Tie Revision for Mom and Baby

For infants who continually struggle to breastfeed after conservative interventions, a lip or tongue tie revision can redirect the nursing experience and promote better health outcomes for both baby and mom.

  • Provide baby with adequate nutrition for healthy development
  • Alleviate gas, reflux, and colic in baby
  • Reduce effort it takes for baby to feed
  • Lessen nursing time and frequency
  • Alleviate painful breastfeeding
  • Prevent nipple damage
  • Encourage better breast milk production through better stimulation
  • Nurture a positive mother/baby bonding experience

Confidently discuss lip and tongue tie laser revision with your patients today.

At Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry, our entire team is dedicated to increasing rates of successful breastfeeding, supporting your patients’ breastfeeding goals, and making the infant dental experience as positive and comfortable as it can possibly be. If you suspect a patient’s baby has a lip tie, contact our office of pediatric dentists in Salem to schedule a consultation today.