When a Flower Mound family had a baby that was struggling to breastfeed, the attending physician informed them their infant was tongue-tied. The surgical staff at the hospital recommended a frenectomy, and they wanted to use a scalpel to do the job. That’s when they contacted our pediatric dental practice to learn about their options.
While traditional surgery can do the job, our practice uses the best methods and technology available, and we have long since dropped the scalpel in favor of the laser to perform frenectomies.
What’s a Frenectomy?
Some body parts can move around, so we grow little folds of tissue that act as retaining cords and provide some stability. These are called frenula, and we have them in our brains, digestive tracts, and in our mouths.
As you might have guessed, we are concerned with the frenula in the mouth. There’s a frenulum 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 the tongue, it can restrict movement. It’s a common condition known as ankyloglossia, colloquially known as being “tongue-tied”.
Ankyloglossia can make it difficult for infants to latch and breastfeed. Even as they grow, it can impair eating habits or impede speech development. It may prevent children from opening their mouth wide and cause discomfort, making simple activities like licking an ice cream cone challenging.
In a lip tie, the labial frenulum that connects the upper lip to the gums is attached too low. The upper lip can be connected at the bottom of the upper gums, 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 injure 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.
Breastfeeding and Ankyloglossia
Many parents don’t realize that a tongue or lip tie is the cause of their infant’s breastfeeding issues. Some cases aren’t easy to see and are only discovered after their mothers seek assistance from a professional.
Both the mother and her 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 this condition is relatively simple in our dental practice.
The team has opted to treat our most vulnerable patients with the best 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 no anesthesia is required. Some babies even fall asleep during the procedure!
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. Our team is the only pediatric dental practice in Flower Mound that uses laser frenectomies to treat ankyloglossia. Schedule a consultation and we’ll see if this is the right choice for you and your infant.