Infant tongue and lip tie is a congenital condition that affects nearly 5% of the population. This condition, which is caused by a short or tight frenulum under the tongue or in the upper lip, restricts the movement of the tongue and lips making breastfeeding and bottle-feeding difficult, and can cause future problems in speech development and overall oral health. Tongue and lip tie is often discovered when mothers are having difficulty breastfeeding. Unfortunately, this problem is often confusing and mothers don’t know where to turn for help.
Dr. Shawn Hanway, Board-Certified Pediatric Dentist, is trained in and passionate about correcting tongue and lip tie. She can perform a frenectomy with a soft-tissue laser in office – a procedure that takes between 2-3 minutes – and provide you with all the information and direction you need to help your infant heal quickly and continue to thrive.
Do you think your child is tongue or lip tied? Refer to this checklist and call our office for a consultation.
Understanding a Frenectomy
Some children are born with shortened or tight frenulums. This soft tissue connects the tongue to the lower jaw and the upper lip to the gums. When the tissue is tight it restricts the range of motion which can make latching extremely difficult. The inability to eat can cause the child to be rightfully fussy and may impact their ability to thrive. It also causes extreme pain and discomfort for nursing mothers. By performing a frenectomy, your pediatric dentist can release the tension and free the range of motion enabling your child to re-learn a correct latch, successfully eat, and grow.
To perform this procedure Dr. Shawn will first evaluate the severity of your child’s tongue or lip tie. Using adequate lighting and optimal positioning, she will then precisely remove the tissue that is restricting your child’s tongue and lips. This soft-tissue laser minimizes bleeding, inflammation, and postoperative discomfort, and due to the laser’s precision can be performed in between 2-3 minutes. Immediately after the procedure your baby will be brought to you to nurse and soothe in a quiet, private room. Please feel free to stay as long as you need to.
For 24 to 48 hours after the frenectomy your child will experience some discomfort. If breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact do not calm them, appropriately dosed Tylenol can be used to relieve pain.
Before your visit
Frenectomies are also performed on infants and children with speech and feeding difficulties. In order to better serve our patients and ensure a more successful release, these are some guidelines that we have set in place:
- We recommend you see a lactation consultant before and after the tongue tie release to ensure best results and to help your baby learn how to obtain the best latch with the new range of motion. We recommend Sarah Ward, Heidi Chavers, and Annika Suarez. Even better results are obtained when babies are also seen by craniosacral therapist (Jodi Lawson 850-559-0080) or chiropractor (Dr. Rob Callahan 850-877-8980) )to determine if the release is necessary or if difficulties can be corrected by bodywork alone. Craniosacral therapy can help improve mobility of the tissues by decreasing the restriction and tension patterns throughout the body and create a calmer baby.
- For our older children (over age 2), we recommend seeing licensed speech-language pathologists (Annika Suarez) to perform a functional assessment prior to scheduling a patient for the procedure to ensure the tie(s) is contributing to dysfunction, as well as the ability to achieve optimal oral function after the release. Feeding and speech are motor learning skills, so release alone is not enough, the patient will need follow up care to train proper function, as well as implementation for active wound management.
- We do not perform laser lip/tongue tie frenectomies for aesthetic purposes. The patient must have a documented functional problem.
After the Frenectomy
In order to ensure that the procedure is a success, it is important for parents to follow all post-operative care instructions. Precise and quick stretches will be necessary to prevent the wound from healing incorrectly and the frenulum from reattaching. Dr. Shawn will explain these stretches to you before and after the procedure. Please don’t hesitate to call the office and refer to this information sheet if you have any questions about post-operative care. This website provides the best information and videos for post-op exercises.
It may take some time for your child to re-learn how to latch after they have healed. Utilizing the knowledge of a lactation consultant can be extremely helpful during this time. It generally takes a few weeks for a child to heal completely from a frenectomy, and a post-procedure check-up will be scheduled one week after the frenectomy is performed. Once again, don’t hesitate to call with concerns and questions, we are happy to help in any way we can.
For more information about the tongue and lip tie procedure, please see this information sheet.
Here is a video showing an actual infant lip and tongue tie surgery.