Ankyloglossia, better known as a tongue-tie, is among the most common obstacles nursing mothers and babies face. A baby has a tongue-tie when the piece of skin connecting the baby’s tongue to the floor if their mouth is too short. This restricts movement of the tongue, making it difficult for the infant to properly latch on to the breast for feedings, and making nursing very painful for the mother. Fortunately, this problem can be corrected with an easy and harmless procedure called an infant frenectomy. Here, we’ll learn more about symptoms of a tongue-tie, as well as treatment options.
Signs and Symptoms:
Tongue-tied babies are born with this condition. If a newborn has a tongue-tie, you may notice:
- Difficulty latching onto the breast for feedings, or staying latched – In order to properly breastfeed, an infant must latch on to both the breast tissue and nipple, and their tongue should cover the lower gum so the nipple is protected from damage. Tongue-ties tether the tongue to the floor of the mouth, resulting in a poor and shallow latch, and leaving them without the ability to latch on, suck, and swallow properly.
- Pain during nursing – It can be normal for nursing to be slightly uncomfortable at first, but you shouldn’t be experiencing extreme nipple pain. This is because babies with a poor latch will often clamp down with their gums in an effort to get milk. In addition to pain during nursing sessions, you may experience sore or cracked nipples. If you’re a breastfeeding mother, and find yourself dreading your baby’s next feeding, have your baby checked for a tongue-tie by a pediatrician or lactation consultant. If a tongue-tie is present, they can refer you to a dentist, oral surgeon or ENT who specializes in this area.
- Poor or slow weight gain – A baby with a tongue-tie may struggle to remove milk from the breast, resulting in poor weight gain, or even weight loss.
- Baby has an inability to open their mouth widely – Babies with this condition often have trouble opening their mouth wide, and a tongue-tie may be apparent when the baby is feeding or crying. In addition to hindering breastfeeding, a tight frenum may also cause difficulty in bottle feeding, and can cause speech issues or pain.
Fortunately, this painful problem is one that can be easily corrected once identified. An infant frenectomy is a surgical procedure that’s performed in order to release a frenum, a fold of tissue that secures motion of the lip and tongue, is too tight or too thick. This procedure removes one or more of these folds from the lip or tongue. Our own Dr. Michael Foley specializes in performing this procedure using a laser.
Dr. Foley is the only oral dental provider west of Albany who performs laser frenectomies. A laser does not actually cut the tissue, and instead, uses light energy for a ‘vaporization’ effect. Dr. Foley strongly prefers this method for its precision and lack of invasiveness. With laser, patients typically experience less bleeding, which reduces the need for stitches; minimizes post-operative discomfort; and, promotes a faster recovery time.
This procedure can be performed in a matter of minutes, and does not require the use of general anesthesia. It’s important to select a provider who is experienced with infant frenectomies, follow their instructions for post-procedure care, and see your provider for a follow-up appointment as recommended.
Dr. Foley is bringing mothers and babies together, one infant at a time. For more information about infant frenectomies, contact one of Dr. Foley’s pediatric dentistry practices, located throughout Western New York State in Buffalo, Amherst, and Orchard Park, at (716) 241-8563.