Published on July 18, 2019, Updated on March 16, 2020
Infants can be born with a tongue-tie or lip-tie that restricts their ability to nurse, swallow, breathe and chew. These two conditions deal with an infant’s tongue or lips being attached to the mouth with excessive connective tissue, making it difficult for the child to eat. Nearly 10% of all infants in the U.S. are born with either tongue-tie or lip-tie, and many parents don’t even notice that it’s there. Infant frenectomies are available for little ones that suffer from these issues, and it releases the frenulum under the tongue or upper lip to improve movement. Find out what to expect with an infant frenectomy and how it can improve your baby’s eating ability with this guide!
When infants are born, about 10% of them will be tongue-tied or lip-tied, which means that the baby’s tongue or lip is attached to the mouth with excessive connective tissue. Although this sounds fairly insignificant, having either of these conditions makes it difficult for the infant to nurse, eat and swallow as their tongue’s range of motion is hindered. The lingual frenulum typically detaches in a baby’s mouth before birth, allowing free range of motion. However, if it doesn’t detach from the bottom of the tongue, a baby will struggle with eating, and if it isn’t fixed by the time they are a toddler, speech difficulties can arise. Some common signs of tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, include difficulty moving the tongue from side-to-side, a notched or heart-shaped tongue and inability to stick the tongue past the front teeth. Most tongue-ties and lip-ties are hardly noticeable, which is why it can take parents weeks or months to figure out why their baby isn’t eating well. Although the reason behind tongue and lip-ties isn’t well understood, some speculate that genetic factors are involved, influencing how an infant’s mouth develops.
Luckily, there is a quick and easy option to fix your child’s tongue or lip-tie, and there is no bleeding involved. If you decide to go this route, it’s important to know what the procedure looks like and what to expect so that your child can have the best experience possible.
The most common procedure to fix a tongue or lip-tie is an infant frenectomy. A frenectomy refers to the removal of the frenulum, or small fold of tissue, that causes tongue and lip-tie. Whenever the frenulum is short or tight, a frenectomy will be performed to release the tissue and allow more movement in the mouth. This process is fairly quick and quite painless for the child. The tongue is held up towards the roof of the mouth to ensure that the frenulum is taut. Once secured, it is then cut along a parallel line with and fairly close to the tongue, which lasts for about one second. Since the procedure is so quick, anesthesia normally isn’t required and the bleeding that occurs amounts to only one or two drops of blood, at most.
Frenectomies can also be performed with lasers, in which no bleeding will occur as the laser will cauterize the wound immediately. Dental laser treatments are highly preferred over surgical options because they don’t require stitches, there’s less pain and swelling, increased precision and reduced infection risk as the area is sterilized by the laser. Additionally, babies can immediately begin breastfeeding after a laser frenectomy, which gives worried mothers some peace of mind.
For new parents especially, it’s important that you evaluate your baby’s mouth to check for a possible tongue or lip-tie early on. It may even require a physician or dentist’s evaluation to determine whether your child has one or both issues. These conditions not only make it difficult for the baby to eat, but they can cause reflux, which is painful. Even if the tongue or lip-tie is minimal and your baby can eat pretty well, future consequences of inaction can include an increased chance of cavities, improperly developed jaws, inability to eat solid foods, sleeping problems and headaches. It’s much better for your child to receive a frenectomy early on so as to avoid these problems and maintain proper oral health.
If you believe that your infant has a tongue or lip-tie, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics at (720) 887-6003 to schedule an evaluation. Your child’s oral health is important to us, and our team of experienced staff is ready to help your baby feel better. Call today!