Did you know that 5% of all babies are born with a tongue tie? Tongue tie, also known formally as ankyloglossia, is a condition in which the connective tissue (lingual frenum) beneath the tongue is too short. When the lingual frenum is too short, it can prevent the tongue from moving correctly, causing problems with breastfeeding and speech. But frenectomies offer a solution to address these challenges.
Read more to learn about this procedure's indications, techniques, and benefits.
What Is Frenectomy?
A frenectomy involves the precise removal or modification of the frenulum, a small tissue that can hinder proper tongue movement and impact various aspects of oral functionality. The frenulum is a natural structure present in the oral cavity and serves to stabilize the movement of the tongue and lips.
Connection of Frenulum to the Tongue and Lip Tissues
The frenulum plays a crucial role in the mobility and function of the tongue and lips. In the case of the lingual frenulum, it connects the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The labial frenulum connects the upper or lower lip to the gum tissue. These connections provide stability and help control the range of movement of the tongue and lips during various oral activities such as speech, swallowing, and breastfeeding.
Signs and Symptoms of Tongue-Tie and Lip-Tie in Infants and Children
Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) and lip-tie can affect infants and children. Identifying the signs and symptoms is crucial for timely intervention and appropriate treatment.
Here are some common indicators of tongue-tie and lip-tie:
Difficulty breastfeeding: Infants with a tongue-tie may have trouble latching onto the breast, causing pain and inadequate milk transfer for both the baby and the mother.
Poor weight gain: Due to breastfeeding difficulties, infants with tongue-ties may struggle to gain weight adequately.
Speech difficulties: As children grow older, tongue-tie can affect speech development, leading to difficulty articulating certain sounds or pronouncing words correctly.
Limited tongue movement: The tongue may appear heart-shaped or have a limited range of motion, unable to extend beyond the lower gum line or touch the roof of the mouth.
Difficulty sticking out the tongue: Children with a tongue tie may have difficulty protruding their tongue past their lips.
Difficulty breastfeeding: Lip-tie can hinder a proper latch during breastfeeding, similar to tongue-tie, causing pain and inadequate milk transfer.
Gum recession: A tight or short frenulum can lead to gum recession around the affected tooth, potentially increasing the risk of dental problems.
Speech difficulties: Sometimes, lip-tie can contribute to speech impediments, particularly with sounds that require proper lip movement and coordination.
Limited lip movement: The upper or lower lip may have restricted movement or difficulty flaring out or covering the teeth properly.
Oral hygiene challenges: A short or tight lip frenulum can make it difficult to maintain good oral hygiene, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
It's important to note that not all children with tongue-tie or lip-tie experience severe symptoms, and the severity can vary. Consulting with a qualified dentist or oral surgeon specializing in pediatric dentistry is crucial for correctly diagnosing and evaluating your child's condition. They can assess the signs and symptoms, conduct a thorough examination, and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options.
How Frenectomy Helps Children with Tongue-tie or Lip-tie
For infants struggling with breastfeeding due to a tongue-tie or lip-tie, frenectomy may improve their ability to latch onto the breast and effectively extract milk. This can relieve pain and discomfort for both the baby and the mother, ensuring adequate nutrition and promoting healthy weight gain.
Better Oral Hygiene
A tight or short frenulum can affect proper oral hygiene practices, creating difficulties in adequately cleaning the teeth and gums. Frenectomy helps improve access to the oral cavity, allowing for better oral hygiene maintenance and reducing the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental issues.
Prevention of Future Dental Issues
Untreated tongue-tie or lip-tie can contribute to various dental problems later in life. By addressing these issues through frenectomy, children can avoid complications such as malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth), tooth decay, speech difficulties, and problems with chewing or swallowing.
Enhanced Quality of Life
Frenectomy can significantly improve the overall quality of life for children with a tongue-tie or lip-tie. It can alleviate discomfort, improve functional abilities, enhance social interactions, and boost self-confidence, allowing children to thrive and reach their full potential.
Frenectomy Procedure for Children
The frenectomy procedure for children is similar to that for adults, but there may be variations based on the child's age, size, and cooperation level.
Here is an overview of the frenectomy procedure for children:
A healthcare professional, usually a pediatrician, dentist, or oral surgeon, evaluates the child's condition. They will assess the extent of the tongue tie and determine if a frenectomy is necessary.
Local anesthesia numbs only the area of application. The choice of anesthesia can vary based on the child's age and cooperation. Generally, young children or those who may not tolerate the procedure well can receive general anesthesia.
The frenectomy uses various techniques. Two standard methods are
Scissor Technique: The surgeon uses a pair of sterile scissors to make a precise incision in the frenulum, which follows the removal or modification of the tissue.
Laser Technique: A dental laser may remove or reshape the frenulum. The laser cauterizes as it cuts, which helps control bleeding and reduces the risk of infection. The choice of technique depends on the surgeon's expertise and the child's specific needs.
After the frenectomy, the child may experience some discomfort or minor bleeding. The parents or caregivers get detailed post-operative care instructions, which may include:
Oral hygiene: Instructions on how to keep the surgical site clean, such as gentle rinsing with salt water or prescribed mouthwashes.
Pain management: Recommendations for over-the-counter pain relievers suitable for children, if necessary.
Feeding guidance: If the child had difficulty breastfeeding before the procedure, professionals advise on techniques to promote successful feeding post-frenectomy.
Follow-up: A follow-up appointment must be scheduled to ensure proper healing and assess the child's progress.
The Children's Dental Center understands the importance of your child's oral health and overall well-being. Whether your little one requires a frenectomy procedure or other dental services, we are committed to delivering exceptional care in a comfortable and child-friendly environment. Give your child the gift of a confident smile and a healthy future.