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Laser dentistry can help with breastfeeding

What You Need to Know About Lip-tie and Tongue-tie Laser Surgeries

It’s not uncommon for breastfeeding moms to worry about whether their little bundle of joy has a tongue or lip tie, and if so, what’s the best way to treat it. In your research on this condition, you’ve probably come across terms like frenulum, frenectomy, or ankyloglossia, but don’t let these scientific phrases confuse you. 

Here’s everything you need to know about lip and tongue ties, from symptoms to treatment options, including laser tongue-tie and lip-tie surgeries. 

Symptoms of a Tongue-tie or Lip-tie in Infants

A tongue-tie or, as medical professionals call it, ankyloglossia is a condition where the thin flap of skin under the tongue, the frenulum, attaches too closely to the bottom of the mouth, restricting the movement of the tongue. Many babies with a tongue-tie also have a short labial frenulum,  the membrane that connects the upper lip to the upper gums, causing mobility issues with the lips. This is what’s known as a lip-tie.

The most common symptom of a tongue-tie or lip-tie in infants is difficulty breastfeeding. When a baby can’t move their tongue or lips properly, they can have a hard time latching onto the breast, and even when they do succeed in settling their mouth on the nipple, many parents find that they keep pulling off, unable to feed for long periods of time. 

Some babies with a tongue-tie have a heart-shaped dent in the tip of their tongue, particularly when they cry. A clicking sound while nursing, difficulty lifting the tongue upward, and an inability to move the tongue side to side are other symptoms of a lip- or tongue-tie.

If you’re a nursing mother with a child who has a tongue- or lip-tie, you may experience pain during feedings or have nipples that appear to be compressed into a wedged shape that resembles a new lipstick, especially right after feeding.

How a Tongue-tie or Lip-tie Affects Your Child

Lip-ties and tongue-ties can affect the movement of the lips and tongue in varying degrees. The shorter the frenulum, the more difficult breastfeeding your child will be. Some infants with the condition may not even have any problems with feeding, and those who do often benefit from slight adjustments in positioning and attachment. Nonetheless, there are still some infants for whom these solutions don’t work, and unless treatment is sought, the restrictions in the tongue and lip movement can lead to dental and overall health issues.

An untreated tongue-tie in older children, for instance, can make it difficult for them to keep their teeth clean, which increases their risk of tooth decay and cavities. A gap between the front bottom teeth may develop in kids with a tongue-tie, which can make performing everyday kid stuff, like licking an ice cream cone and playing a wind instrument, challenging. 

Just like with tongue-ties, a short labial frenulum (lip-tie) can lead to tooth decay when food debris gets trapped in the teeth because of the upper lip. Kids with lip-ties or tongue-ties normally don’t have trouble learning to speak, but they can find it difficult to pronounce “th” and “r” sounds. 

Tongue-tie and Lip-tie Newborn Treatment Options

Medical professionals, like ENT doctors, normally treat tongue- and lip-ties with an in-office procedure known as a frenectomy. The quick surgery involves using a scalpel or surgical scissors to cut the band of tissue that’s restricting movement in the tongue or lip. In newborns, a frenectomy is often done in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic, while older children may require general anesthesia in an inpatient facility. This procedure typically also involves sutures.

At Must Love Kids, we use a specially designed diode laser for all tongue-tie and lip-tie surgeries. A diode laser procedure takes less than ten minutes from start to finish and has several advantages over frenectomies performed with scalpels or scissors. First, the laser helps cauterize the frenulum, which not only minimizes bleeding but also makes sutures unnecessary and the healing process less painful for your child. 

This form of treatment also only requires a topical anesthetic. Older children may occasionally require stronger anesthesia for laser tongue-tie and lip-tie surgeries, but this type of treatment still provides a better experience for your little one and a more comfortable, faster healing time than alternative methods.

Laser Tongue-tie and Lip-tie Surgeries in Vancouver

Our Vancouver pediatric dentistry practice provides laser treatment to newborns who, along with their mothers, struggle breastfeeding due to the presence of a lip- or tongue-tie. While examining your child for a tongue- or lip-tie is a good place to start for a diagnosis, you’ll still need to book a consultation with a qualified pediatric dentist for a professional examination to determine the proper treatment method for your child. 

Dr. Mo and Dr. G are certified in laser surgery techniques, providing minimally invasive procedures without causing unnecessary pain and discomfort while offering increased safety. Feel welcome to visit our Vancouver practice for a diagnosis!