Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 9-05-2022
Is your newborn struggling to latch on during breastfeeding? Or, have you noticed that their tongue appears heart-shaped when they cry? Is their tongue unable to move from side to side? These are signs that your baby may be tongue-tied.
In this article, we will first define this condition, and then discuss 6 six ways that your newborn infant can benefit from tongue-tie surgery.
What is tongue-tie?
Tongue-tie is a problem with the band of soft tissue that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This piece of tissue is called the frenulum. If it’s too short, too thick, too stiff, or attached too close to the tip of the tongue, then it limits the movement of the tongue. Typically, the frenulum separates from the tongue prior to birth. When this doesn’t happen, the condition is called “ankyloglossia” or tongue-tie.
There is a similar condition called lip-tie. In this case, the labial frenulum that connects the upper lip to the gum is too wide or too large.
1. Tongue-tie surgery can allow your newborn to breastfeed more easily
If your infant is struggling to breastfeed, they could be tongue-tied. Tongue-tie limits the tongue’s movement, which can make it difficult for your baby to latch on. This reduced range of motion means your infant has to use ineffective movements when trying to feed. Consequently, they’re unlikely to have proper suction on the nipple. As a result, your infant may not be getting adequate milk. This means they will have to nurse more frequently in attempts to get the required nourishment for their development.
2. Tongue-tie surgery can help you bond with your baby
Breastfeeding isn’t only important for a child’s development, it’s also a way for a nursing mother and baby to bond. When parents encounter breastfeeding troubles, it can be emotionally taxing and discouraging. There are many reasons why a baby may struggle to breastfeed, so it’s important to consult with your doctor and lactation consultant. If tongue-tie is causing your breastfeeding difficulties, then tongue-tie surgery is the best way forward. This will allow for easier breastfeeding and help mother and baby to form an emotional bond.
3. Tongue-tie surgery can help your baby sleep better
Post-tongue-tie surgery, babies have the chance to develop better and healthier sleep habits. If tongue-tie is preventing your infant from getting adequate milk, either from breastfeeding or bottle feeding, then this will affect their sleep cycle. This is because hungry babies feed more frequently. Removing the tongue-tie allows your child to feed more effectively, thus leaving each feeding feeling full and satiated. In turn, this means they sleep longer because they don’t wake as frequently to feed.
4. Tongue-tie surgery can prevent dental issues
Untreated tongue-tie often leads to a variety of dental issues for newborns and toddlers. For example, tongue-tie (or lip-tie) causes milk to pool around the gums. This is a problem because it can lead to tooth decay. The tongue-tie or lip-tie essentially traps the milk around your child’s baby teeth, causing them to rot. Additionally, tongue-tie can result in gum recession, palatal development, and tooth spacing.
5. Tongue-tie surgery can prevent other development issues
As your newborn grows, they may encounter more development issues brought on by their tongue-tie. Tongue-tied babies who struggle to breastfeed might not get enough food, which prevents them from gaining enough weight and developing at a normal pace. Additionally, tongue-tied infants may encounter reflux problems. Because their tongue lacks its full range of motion, tongue-tied children can develop an abnormal swallowing pattern and an atypically strong gag reflex.
6. Tongue-tie surgery means a higher quality of life
Tongue-tie affects the tongue’s movement, which can impact the simple acts of being a kid. For example, children who are tongue-tied often struggle to eat ice-cream cones. This is because the tongue-tie makes licking difficult, if not impossible. The tongue simply does not have the adequate range of motion. Furthermore, tongue-tied children may struggle to kiss, stick their tongue out, and even play a wind instrument!
What does tongue-tie surgery entail?
At Milltown Dental, Dr. Julie provides a form of tongue-tie surgery called a laser frenectomy. This procedure uses a soft tissue laser to cut the band of tissue that restricts the movement of the tongue. Remember, this tissue is called the frenulum!
Laser tongue-tie surgery is advantageous over a scalpel or scissors because it is quicker and safer. In fact, the procedure typically takes less than a minute! Furthermore, the laser cauterises the tissue during surgery, which means bleeding is very rare. This also removes any risk of infection and the need for sutures. Because the laser seals the nerve endings, post-op pain is minimal or non-existent. There is no recovery time required.
Another advantage of laser frenectomies is that it does not require anaesthesia. Parents can even hold their babies during the procedure, helping their infant to feel safe and calm. Whereas older babies and children may need anaesthesia for their frenectomies, this is not the case with newborns. This is all the more reason not to wait if you know that your infant is tongue-tied!
Immediately following tongue-tie surgery, newborns can breastfeed with more ease. They should have an improved ability to latch right away. In some cases, newborns need some time to re-learn how to breastfeed and latch effectively. If this happens, it’s a good idea to talk with your lactation consultant and monitor your child’s progress.
Tongue-Tie Surgery Benefits Newborns
If your newborn is tongue-tied, then a laser frenectomy is the right course of action. Untreated tongue-tie can lead to a variety of issues for newborns, toddlers, and children. It often makes breastfeeding far more difficult, thereby affecting your child’s growth and sleep patterns. As well, these breastfeeding troubles can make it harder for nursing mothers and babies to bond. Lastly, tongue-tie can lead to other dental and development issues. This includes tooth decay, gum recession, tooth spacing, and swallowing patterns.
Tongue-tie surgery protects your child from these issues. Since laser frenectomies are safe, quick, and effective, there’s no reason to avoid the procedure. It improves your newborn’s quality of life, as well as your own.