Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 27-12-2022
Before any medical procedure—big or small—it’s always important to feel at ease and ensure any of your outstanding questions are answered.
Whether being performed on an infant or adult, understanding exactly what to expect during tongue-tie surgery (or frenectomy) will help provide the necessary peace of mind heading into your appointment.
When left untreated, lip and tongue-tie can result in a number of different issues, including speech difficulties, problems with eating, and speech abnormalities, among others. If you or your child is experiencing one of these conditions, then a laser frenectomy is your best option.
After completing an initial consultation at our Milltown Dental office, it’s possible you may have some remaining questions. To help you prepare for your appointment, we’ve put together a list of answers to 11 common questions about tongue-tie surgery.
1. What is tongue-tie?
Tongue-tie, also known as “Ankyloglossia”, is a condition that limits tongue movement due to a fusion or adherence of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.
The reason behind this is that the “frenulum”—a piece of skin that runs along the floor of the mouth—is either abnormally short or attached too close to the tip of the tongue.
In most cases, this skin separates from the tongue before birth, except in the case of tongue-tie where it remains attached.
2. How is tongue-tie diagnosed?
In the majority of cases, you can notice tongue-tie when your baby cries; their tongue will be shaped like a heart due to a tight frenulum.
That said, a “posterior tongue-tie” is more difficult to diagnose because the tongue looks squared off with the floor of the mouth, thus webbing/tenting the tongue.
The edges of the tongue will also form a cup when your baby cries due to the fact that the tongue cannot be elevated. Unable to move from side to side, the tongue will only be able to twist side to side.
In addition, you will notice that the tongue struggles to extend out of the mouth while it’s open, but cannot stick out.
3. Why is tongue-tie a problem?
Tongue-tie causes many issues for your baby, as it affects their ability to feed. As well, it impacts their oral development, which will create difficulty when they try to eat, swallow and speak.
Some common issues that result from tongue-tie include:
- Breastfeeding problems
- Speech difficulties
- Poor oral hygiene
- Inability to lick, kiss, or play a wind instrument
4. Which frenectomy (tongue-tie release) tool is preferred: lasers or scissors?
Most practitioners are trained in one or more frenectomy tools. However, both instruments have proven to be successful in long-term treatment.
That said, the majority of dentists prefer to perform laser treatment because it yields a more precise and complete result than scissors when treating infants; their mouths are much smaller, after all.
Laser treatment also limits the amount of bleeding, as it cauterizes the tissues within your baby’s mouth, thus minimizing the risk of infection as a result.
5. What is a laser frenectomy?
During a laser frenectomy, the dentist will use a laser to quickly separate the frenulum from the tongue. The soft tissue laser does not cut the tissue, so it is quicker and safer than using a cutting method.
Your baby is more comfortable during the tongue-tie procedure, as you can hold the baby to keep them safe and calm.
6. What will happen before the tongue-tie release?
Before the tongue-tie release, you will be given specific instructions to help you get ready for your appointment. In the majority of cases, minimal preparation is necessary ahead of time. The procedure is comfortable for the most part, so there shouldn’t be any need to take additional pain medication before you bring your baby to the appointment.
A local anesthetic will be applied before the tongue-tie surgery begins. The amount of anesthetic required will vary from patient to patient.
7. What happens during tongue-tie release?
During the tongue-tie release, the dentist will use the laser to remove the frenulum that is restricting the movement of the lips or tongue.
The procedure will be completed very quickly, with every safety precaution taken to protect your baby. When using a laser for a tongue/lip-tie release we use stickers for their eyes to protect the eyes from the laser. Adults are provided glasses to protect the eyes from the laser.
8. What should I expect after tongue-tie release?
As stated above, the laser cauterizes the tissue that it cuts, causing zero bleeding. When an infant undergoes a tongue-tie release, they should be able to breastfeed immediately following the procedure.
Initially, there should be little to no discomfort. However, some soreness and swelling may occur during the following days. While recovery is relatively straightforward, contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.
9. How long is the recovery period?
Complete healing of the surgical site may take several weeks. It’s important to monitor the healing throughout recovery, and continue following the recommended steps provided post-surgery.
If an adult or child undergoes a tongue-tie release, they might require speech therapy or myofunctional therapy throughout the recovery process. Depending on the age of the child. Retraining your tongue to rest in its proper position and to complete proper swallowing patterns may take a few months.
10. What are the benefits of tongue-tie surgery?
Some of the benefits of tongue-tie release (laser frenectomy) include:
- Parents can hold the baby and be present during the procedure.
- A lot less pain, with many babies actually sleeping through the release.
- Very rare bleeding, as the laser cauterizes tissue during the release.
- No infection.
- No needle is required.
- No sutures are needed.
- No (or very minimal) post-op pain, as the laser seals the nerve endings.
- No recovery time required.
- Immediate and successful feeding.
11. Why have tongue-tie release?
As previously mentioned, tongue-tie can lead to many preventable issues if not addressed. This can especially impact your baby's health and well-being due to breastfeeding challenges.
There are many reasons why you should consider having tongue-tie release performed, including:
- Successful breastfeeding.
- Pain-free breastfeeding.
- Stimulating milk production.
- To make breastfeeding a pleasant experience and improve mother/baby bonding.
- Psychological relief for parents with better sleep.
- The baby will thrive.
- The baby will develop better and healthier sleep habits.
- Avoid serious long-term issues such as with palatal development, tooth spacing, dental caries, and speech impairments.
- Allow the development of a normal swallowing pattern.
- Allow the tongue to self-cleanse the mouth, thus lowering the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
- Allow basic tongue functions, such as licking, kissing, and sticking the tongue out.
- Reduce the risks of choking and developing an atypically strong gag reflex.
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