Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 5-08-2019
A frenectomy is a procedure that addresses what is commonly called tongue-tie. Formally known as “Ankyloglossia”, tongue-tie occurs when there is a fusion or adherence of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. It affects roughly 5% of the population. For most people, the frenulum will naturally separate from the tongue before birth. This small piece of skin that attaches your tongue to the bottom of your mouth can sometimes be either too short or attached too close to the tip of the tongue. This can cause multiple issues. If your baby has tongue-tie, we will recommend a frenectomy to correct the issue. Here is everything you need to know about tongue-tie and how to prepare for a frenectomy.
If you notice your baby’s tongue is heart shaped when they cry, chances are they have tongue-tie. In the case of a “posterior tongue-tie”, the tongue will appear squared off with the floor of the mouth webbing/tenting the tongue. Because of this, you might notice that your baby’s tongue forms a cup shape. They will also not be able to lift their tongue properly nor will they be able to move it from side to side.
If your baby is having trouble breastfeeding, this can also be a sign they have tongue-tie. Our family friendly team can help determine if your baby has tongue-tie.
What are the issues with tongue-tie?
There are many issues with tongue-tie, including:
- Breastfeeding problems.
- Speech difficulties.
- Poor oral hygiene, which can increase risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
- Inability to lick, kiss, or play a wind instrument.
Although some of these issues might not seem serious, they all will have a negative impact on your child’s ability to develop socially. This can lead to issues with anxiety and depression. You always want to help your child achieve their dreams and enjoy optimum health!
Why is tongue-tie bad for babies?
If you are unable to properly breastfeed your newborn, it is not only frustrating for you and your child. It can also lead to mental and physical suffering for your baby. When they are unable to latch on to the breast, they will not be able to thrive if they are not getting enough nourishment. As well, you can suffer from cracks, bruises, and pain during feedings if your baby has tongue-tie. If this happens, you can be at risk for infection, which can actually taint your milk supply.
What is laser frenectomy?
Laser frenectomy is the safest and quickest way to separate the frenulum from the tongue. The laser does not cut the tissue, but instead uses lasers to effectively make the incision required without causing soft tissue damage.
This has many benefits, including:
- You can hold your baby during the procedure.
- It is less painful, with many babies sleeping through the procedure.
- Less bleeding, as the laser cauterizes the tissue during the procedure.
- No infection.
- No needle required.
- No sutures.
- Reduced pain because the laser seals the nerve endings.
- No recovery time required.
- Immediate successful feeding.
We offer laser frenectomies right in our office to make it easy to return proper function for your baby’s tongue.
Benefits of a Frenectomy
There are many benefits to a frenectomy, including:
- Successful, pain-free breastfeeding.
- Stimulation of milk production.
- Allowing mother and baby to bond during a pleasant breastfeeding experience.
- Psychological relief for parents.
- Better sleep for the family.
- The baby will thrive.
- The baby will develop more healthy sleep habits.
- Avoiding serious long-term issues with palatal development, tooth spacing, dental caries, and speech impairments.
- Avoiding speech issues.
- Allowing the development of a normal swallowing pattern.
- Allowing the tongue to self-cleanse the mouth, thus lowering the risks of gum disease and decay.
- Allowing basic tongue function, such as licking, kissing, and sticking the tongue out.
- Helping to reduce the risks of choking and developing an atypically strong gag reflex.
How to Prepare for a Frenectomy
The good news for the procedure is that there is little preparation required. You can focus on keeping your child calm and comfortable so they are not stressed. Babies are unaware of what is happening and will have no memory of the procedure.
We will use a numbing medicine during the procedure, which will help keep your baby comfortable. As well, the laser itself has analgesic properties so we do not require medication before the procedure.
Tongue-tie can lead to disorganized or weak sucking patterns. You can help improve their sucking patterns using sucking exercises as soon as your child is diagnosed with tongue-tie. You can do them four times each day prior to your procedure.
Use these steps:
- Use your finger to slowly rub your baby’s lower gum line and your baby will instinctively follow your finger. This will help develop proper lateral tongue movement.
- Play tug of war with your baby’s tongue by allowing them to suck on your finger while you slowly try to remove your finger from their mouth. They will try to suck it back in automatically, which will strengthen their tongue. You can use a pacifier for this exercise if you prefer.
- Apply gentle pressure to your child’s palate while they suck your finger. When you feel them sucking, press down on their tongue. This will interrupt their sucking when your baby changes patterns to push against your finger. When you hear the seal break of the suction, put your finger back up into the palate to re-stimulate sucking. This can be frustrating for your baby, so don’t continue it if they get upset.
- Place your index finger inside your baby’s cheek while massaging the outside of their cheek with your thumb. This will lessen tension.
Always be certain that your finger or the pacifier is perfectly clean before beginning the exercises.
We would advise that you have pain medication on hand following the procedure. This will help keep your baby comfortable, although the expected pain tends to be quite mild, if at all. Use what you usually use for your baby, whether it is Tylenol, homeopathic remedies like arnica or Rescue Remedy, or nothing at all.
At Milltown Dental, we offer tongue-tie diagnosis and frenectomy laser surgery at our clinic. If you think your baby might have tongue-tie, click here to set up an appointment today.