At Briargate Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, we have opportunity to help infants in the Colorado Springs area who have trouble nursing due to lip-tie and tongue-tie issues every day.
We love seeing young moms and dads and newborn babies on an almost daily basis in our dental practice. Often these new parents are under tremendous stress with a child who cannot nurse effectively. Although they are typically nervous prior to the procedure, their relief can be seen all over their face once the procedure is done and their child’s nursing improves. To see their newborn comfortably nursing after all of the problems is priceless. We really learned about the importance of this procedure when our own daughter had difficulty nursing due to a lip-tie. After the procedure Dr. Lauren was able to continue breastfeeding without the excruciating pain.
A frenectomy (or frenotomy) is a procedure used to correct a congenital condition where the tongue frenum or upper lip frenum is too tight. When the tongue frenum is too tight it is commonly called tongue tie (or ankyloglossia). When the lip frenum is too tight it is commonly called a lip tie. Both can cause restrictions of movement of the tongue or lip preventing normal positioning during breastfeeding. A tight lingual or labial frenum may also be related to dental decay, spacing, speech difficulties or and digestive problems.
Tongue or lip ties can cause difficulties with breastfeeding. Tongue and lip-ties are relatively common – they can affect anywhere from 5-10% of the population. Your lactation consultant, doula and/or doctor will look at your baby’s tongue and/or lip to determine if they have a tie. If your baby has a tie and you are having pain with breastfeeding, your practitioner may refer you for an infant frenectomy. At your dental visit, the severity of the lip and/or tongue tie will be assessed. A frenectomy may help improve symptoms, decrease breastfeeding pain and/or improve your infant’s latch.
How does a tight frenulum affect a baby’s ability to breastfeed?
In order to get milk from the breast, the baby must move his tongue in a wave motion to draw the nipple and areola into his/her mouth and then press them against the roof of his/her mouth. If the tongue is tied, the baby is unable to make the wave motion, he/she may instead compress the breast tissue instead which can cause nipple pain or damage. It is always good to be evaluated by a healthcare provider if you think your baby may have a tongue tie.
How does a lip-tie affect a baby’s ability to breastfeed?
A lip-tie affects a baby’s ability to latch onto the breast and achieve a good seal because the movement of the upper lip is restricted. The baby’s upper lip is unable to flange and so only the nipple goes into the mouth, Therefore a lip-tie can also cause pain or nipple damage during breastfeeding.
Can you describe the frenectomy procedure? Is it painful for the baby?
The procedure is relatively painless. The baby is crying mostly because he is being held. The baby is put on the breast immediately following the procedure. Overall the procedure is simple and safe with a very small risk of infection. A lot of times the mother will notice an immediate improvement in the latch. The earlier the procedure is done, the less time it will take the baby to nurse effectively.
Why am I just hearing more about lip-ties and tongue-ties now?
Doctors used to prefer the wait and see approach. Also, the rate of breastfeeding was not as high as it is now. The majority of babies used to be bottle feed.
What are the treatment options?
Traditional treatments for baby tongue-tie consists of "clipping and/or cutting" which then results in bleeding and a lot of undue stress to the parents. We do a WaterLase Laser Frenectomy, which uses cool water during the procedure, there is little bleeding, very little pain, andvery little risk of infection and the healing is instantaneous for infants.