Tongue tie is when the frenum, the membrane that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, restricts the movement of the tongue.
What problems can result from tongue tie?
The most immediate problem children face because of their tongue tie is an inability to breastfeed because they cannot position their tongue properly.
But tongue tie can result in a lifetime of problems. Tongue tie can make it hard for a child to speak clearly, and even adults who learn to overcome the limitation may have to think hard or speak slowly to be understood.
Tongue tie makes it harder for the tongue to clean food debris off teeth, leading to a higher risk of cavities.
Tongue tie may contribute to a child’s need for orthodontics because the tongue’s movements help form the arch of teeth. Poor jaw development may contribute to breathing difficulties and jaw problems among adults. It may even make it hard for someone to keep their dentures in place.
How is tongue tie diagnosed?
Tongue tie can be diagnosed by many health professionals that work with your baby, including your child’s doctor, your lactation consultant, or a dentist. Often, the functional problems are noticed first, prompting a look at the tongue.
How is tongue tie treated?
Tongue tie is treated with a procedure called a frenectomy or frenotomy, in which the restrictive frenum is removed. In the past, this was done with a scalpel or pair of scissors, but today a laser is the tool of choice. It is quick and precise, and it reduces the discomfort and surgical risks.
Does frenectomy hurt?
The procedure is associated with mild discomfort. You can reduce your child’s discomfort by giving your child a dose of acetaminophen (children’s Tylenol) before the procedure. The procedure takes just about three minutes to perform, and immediately after, your child will begin feeling better. See What to expect before, during, and after tongue tie revision for more information.
Are stretches necessary after a frenectomy?
Yes. Stretches ensure that the treated areas will not heal together, potentially creating an even worse tongue tie. These should be performed for three to four weeks.
Are stitches used after a frenectomy?
Not generally for infants, who don’t need them. Older patients may need stitches to help the wounds, which are larger, stay closed. It also relates to the degree of tie that will have to be removed. During your consultation, we can help you understand whether you need stitches or not.
Are there risks related to frenectomy?
No procedure is without risks, but for frenectomy they are relatively minor. There is a risk of infection, more than usual discomfort, numbness, restrictive scar tissue or ulceration, All of these complications are uncommon to rare.
I’ve read that frenectomy fell out of favor. Why is that?
One of the main reasons why frenectomy is done is to help with breastfeeding. As breastfeeding became less popular, so did frenectomy. As we have come to understand the benefits of breastfeeding, it is becoming more popular again, and with it, frenectomy is also becoming a more common procedure.