What is a Frenectomy & Does Your Child Need One?

Frenectomy for Infants
Some infants may need a frenectomy to help them with nursing.

Frenectomy  (Lip- or Tongue-Tie Release)

The pediatric dentists at Smile Surfers in Richland are trained to perform frenectomies using state-of-the-art CO2 laser technology. A frenectomy is a procedure to release a lip or tongue tie (ankyloglossia). Both the lips and the tongue are very complex muscles groups that are important for normal oral functions. Ensuring that your child has proper movement and range of motion in the lips and tongue is crucial to their long-term health and development.

What is a Lip or Tongue Tie?

Under your tongue, there is a band of tissue (lingual frenulum) that connects the tongue to the bottom of your mouth. Some babies are born with a shortened lingual frenulum, or a tongue tie, that restricts movement and can cause problems with feeding and breathing. A lip tie is quite similar to the tongue tie. The difference is a shortened lip frenulum (labial frenulum) causes the top and/or bottom lip to be restricted and unable to curl or move normally.

Any of these shortened frenula can cause difficulty for babies to nurse because a secure latch on the breast cannot be attained. For the infant, this can result in poor weight gain or weight loss and recurring bouts of thrush or other infections. Unsuccessful latching on may also signal that the baby is sucking in and swallowing large amounts of air. This can lead to colic, reflux or spitting up.

Infants with a tongue or lip tie may try to “gum” the breast to latch on properly which can be very painful for the mother. The challenge of breastfeeding due may also cause the mother to suffer from plugged milk ducts and blistered, painful nipples. Milk production may be decreased which can result in an early end to breastfeeding.

Even for infants who are not nursing, a lip or tongue tie can be problematic as they get older. They may have difficulty chewing solid food due to a shortened frenulum. Speech problems, including a lisp may also develop. In some cases, the upper palate may develop narrower than normal, which can result in problems with a child’s airway.

Dental calamities including decay or spacing problems can occur as a child ages. A restricted tongue requires additional muscle use to perform activities like chewing, swallowing and breathing. This leads to hyperactivity of the cervical muscles that can result in a forward head posture.


Diagnosing a Tongue or Lip Tie

If your child is experiencing any of the difficulties mentioned above, talk with your pediatrician about the possibility that a tongue or lip tie could be the culprit. A lactation consultant may also recognize the early signs of a tongue or lip tie shortly after birth. He or she should be able to easily determine if this is something to be addressed by a pediatric dentist or oral surgeon. The sooner you diagnose the problem, the sooner you can look into options for correcting it.


A Frenectomy Procedure Using a Laser

Fortunately, a quick and simple frenectomy procedure performed in the Smile Surfer’s office can release a tongue or lip tie to help alleviate the aforementioned problems.

Using a LightScalpel Co2 Laser, our pediatric dentists can safely and quickly cut the shortened frenulum. The laser coagulates the tissue at the same time as the cut, meaning there is no blood loss and minimal post-operative pain.

Before a frenectomy is performed, our dental team will have a consultation with the patient and a parent to determine the best course of action. You can book your appointment with the Smile Surfers team today by calling (509) 946-9999.

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