Everyone has a small strand of tissue, called a frenum, that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth and the lips to the gums. If the frenum is too tight, short, or thick, it can inhibit normal mouth function and development. These restrictions are known as lip and tongue ties. A frenectomy is the procedure to remove this excess tissue and allow full oral function.
For nursing mothers and infants, lip and tongue ties can often prevent them from experiencing a happy, healthy, and successful breastfeeding relationship. Without a full range of motion, babies cannot effectively latch and transfer milk. For mom this can lead to cracked or bleeding nipples, infection, and breast engorgement. Infants may also present any of the following symptoms:
- Poor weight gain
- Colic and/or reflux
- Slides off nipples
- Bites or chews nipples
- Weak suck
- Nurses frequently
The following video is a great visual of the ways lip and tongue ties can inhibit breastfeeding. Without full flexibility of the lip, babies are unable to properly flange it around the breast. Without the ability to fully lift the tongue to the palate, babies are unable to successfully expel and transfer milk.
There are numerous long-term effects of leaving lip and/or tongue ties uncorrected. The symptoms may not always be obvious in infants, but as a child grows and their mouth develops, complications may arise. In many cases these issues can be avoided by early intervention. However, because our doctors diagnose based upon function rather than appearance, there may also be times in which they recommend waiting until the child is older to see if the tie(s) will be problematic.
Some common problems faced by individuals with untreated ties include:
- Speech and articulation
- Gaps in front teeth and orthodontic issues
- Gum recession
- Painful brushing and flossing
- Poor food cleansing
- Decay and cavities
- Aversion to solid foods
For a patient with a lip and/or tongue tie, surgical release, or a frenectomy, is the treatment of choice. A frenectomy is a procedure that releases either one or both of the ties and allows for more movement and mouth control for the patient.
Traditionally frenectomies are performed with scissors and sutures. Our office uses the latest laser technology so that we can provide the best level of care to you and your family. The use of lasers poses many advantages, the greatest being a quick in-office procedure with minimal bleeding, an unlikely need for sutures, and shortened healing time. It also makes for a kinder, gentler experience for the parents.
We know have frustrating breastfeeding can be and how crucial the first weeks and months are in establishing this special bond. For this reason we set aside time in our schedule to perform frenectomies and do our best to accommodate your schedule. We aim to provide relief as soon as possible, if not same-day. After the procedure we will take the time to practice the stretches with you and your baby and go over the post-op instructions with you. We also like to see you back a week after the procedure to monitor healing and answer any additional questions.
For more information, or to hear how the procedure transformed the lives of one of our families, check out the blog post we wrote in partnership with our friends at Dallas Moms Blog.